Hoobastank: Fight Or Flight Review

Hoobastank is a post-grunge band that has seen its share of ups and downs. After putting out a decent debut and a smashing sophomore album, the band took a turn for the worse with two dismally disappointing followups. Unlike the flawed but ultimately engaging and sensational The ReasonFor(N)ever saw Hoobastank at their all-time worst with an unoriginal and uninteresting effort that virtually robbed the band of their musical credibility. With two consistent albums and two disappointing followups, it was even money which direction the band’s fifth album would go. Hoobastank would either realize their floundering career trajectory, or produce yet another underwhelming album. Fight Or Flight represents a merger of both possibilities; while the band certainly rights the ship and produces quality content for the first time in two albums, it’s hard to ignore how the album lags in the middle and falls off after three stellar opening songs. If albums were judged on their first few tracks alone, Fight Or Flight would be a masterpiece. But unfortunately, a comparatively lackluster batch of songs follow up this record’s promising beginning, only to leave the listener wondering if Hoobastank will ever be able to harness their talents for an entire album to create something more than just “good.”

Standout Tracks

The reverberating guitar of “This Is Gonna Hurt” bounces with springy resonance that gives this leadoff track character and sets it apart from the rest of the album. The boing and buzz of the central guitar riff takes center stage, but Dan Estrin, Doug Robb and Jesse Charland on the bass all combine to give this leadoff track engaging hooks that create a fun but heavy vibe. Robb’s edgy vocals, Chris Hesse’s splashy drumming and this song’s catchy nature are appropriate, but the first glimpses of dumbed down lyrics slightly hold it back. The simplistic declarations of “This is gonna hurt you / More than it hurts me / And I don’t wanna hurt / That’s why I’m gonna hurt you / That’s why I’m gonna hurt you / That’s how it’s gonna be” get the point across, but don’t necessarily impress.

“The Fallen” rounds out the greatest section of Fight Or Flight while also serving as the best song on the album. This song is stylistically diverse from the rest of the album, sounding like an improved version of something you’d find on The Reason. If nothing else, this song shows an artistic maturity not seen before, exemplified by the rising and falling of the tempo, deafening guitars and Robb’s introspectively profound questions declared in dramatically effective fashion. This is the Hoobastank fans have been looking for.

“Sing What You Can’t Say” unintentionally represents Hoobastank’s approach to writing music: although the singer has problems expressing himself through words, he finds a way to do so through the music itself. However, these romantic proclamations are actually a little more eloquent here, while the calming guitar and soft drum beat allow Robb’s fluctuating vocals to dominate the proceedings. This ballad is simple and won’t draw the same kind of attention as “The Reason,” but it is heartfelt and serves its purpose in adding a little more diversity to the album.

The Verdict

Fight Or Flight should restore some fans’ faith in Hoobastank, but it likely won’t attract any new ones like The Reason did years ago. This darker and more pensive album is certainly more mature and artistic than the majority of the band’s past song catalogue, but it loses its verve in the middle before trailing off in boring fashion with a few ballads that are less-than-significant in comparison. That being said, Fight Or Flight is a massive improvement on For(N)ever and even Every Man For Himself. In fact, Hoobastank’s fifth album only falls short of The Reason, but don’t expect anything stellar or captivating after its first few tracks. Fans of 3 Doors Down, 12 Stones, Trapt, Papa Roach, Staind, Crossfade and Hinder should appreciate this newest dose of Hoobastank as a definite improvement on their past few failures. But for all its dazzling glimpses of artistry and sophistication, Fight Or Flight struggles in keeping the listener engaged at times thanks to some questionable compositional gimmicks and downright simplistic lyrics. For Hoobastank, this is one of their better efforts in recent memory. Unfortunately it’s that same “recent memory” that is starting to blur recollections of when this band made truly meaningful music.

Final Score: 7/10

Rank: 2nd (five total albums)

Track List

  1. This Is Gonna Hurt
  2. You Before Me
  3. The Fallen
  4. Can You Save Me?
  5. No Destination
  6. Slow Down
  7. No Win Situation
  8. Sing What You Can’t Say
  9. Magnolia
  10. Incomplete
  11. A Thousand Words

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