“Crazy World,” Boys Like Girls (Columbia)
Boys Like Girls’ new “Crazy World” is crazy like a fox.
This manipulative marvel puts the Massachusetts band in the middle of the mainstream, maximizing its odds with three broad genres: rock, pop and country.
The men are nothing if not predictable. Singer/guitarist/producer Martin Johnson establishes his cadence early, delivering an inevitable stream of vocal arcs with almost every chorus. Refrains are built on easily digestible platitudes. Strings indicate melancholy, the piano is paired with tender moments, the electric guitar represents feisty rebellion, and when the rhythm acts up, it’s a party song.
This is cookie-cutter music with all the nutritional value of ... cookies.
Nevertheless, they’re tasty cookies and often hard to resist. There’s something comforting about knowing in advance where every track is going, about being able to sing along to a song the first time you hear it.
“Crazy World” starts and ends with the same message: Life is short, so live it up. Pulsing opener “The First Time” is about the fast passage of time, while piano-based closer “Hey You” is about making a bold move on a stranger, “Hey you, feel like falling in love on a subway train?”
Most of the in-between cuts are solidly executed, like the playful “Red Cup Hands Up Long Brown Hair” (“She’s everything I’m looking for”) and the uptempo, Americana-flavored “Life of the Party” that asks, “Who are we if we ain’t with our friends?” Mopier songs also prove serviceable, from the heartbreaker “Cheated” (“Fool me once and I let you come home/Fool me twice, now I’m letting you go”) to the “broken dreams” malaise of “Leaving California.”
Those songs help offset the half-baked hokum elsewhere, inconsequential and anonymous filler music plus dumbed-down pandering, as on the title track that includes whistling, clapping and harmonica plus the gratuitous observation, “That sounds good, woo-hoo!”
The thing about cookies is each one tends to be less enjoyable than the one before it. And as a result, overindulging in “Crazy World” could leave you with a stomachache.
Rating (five possible): 3