|| Name: "Fashionably Late"
Label: Jonas Records/Hollywood
Release Date: September 15, 2009
My rating: 3.1 out of 5
Review written by: Alan Ho
Honor Society has gone from indie darlings and a Musiqtone.com You Gotta Know to fast rising pop stars in just less than 2 years and with their connections to the Jonas Brothers universe, why wouldn't they? The pop/rock quartet from Los Angeles by way of the suburbs of New York City has seen plenty of time on the road and wields a large international fan base, culminating in a successful tour run with the Jonas Brothers and the Wonder Girls alongside their "Full Moon Crazy" Tour to test the waters for their upcoming headlining tour.
With all the trappings of major-label fame, the question on many fans' minds was did they have to trade anything to fit the so-called Disney music mold and suit to the younger audience the Jonas Brothers themselves attract on a constant basis? Unfortunately on the band's long-anticipated debut album "Fashionably Late", they have traded in their flair for taking and executing very well creative risks and potential Maroon 5-like sound for something more formulaic and tried and true in the sub-genres of boy-bandish pop/rock save for 3 or 4 songs on the album. The basic gist is that if you have been with the band from the beginning, prepare to be disappointed. If you just started to pick up on them and have never heard of their earlier stuff when they were indie, then the album pretty much will work.
The album begins with "Over You," the first single the band released to mainstream pop radio. The catchy and infectious beat is what really sets the tone for most of the album but it does not come without its major flaws. Even after several listens, one cannot shake the fact that 'Over You' just does not fit them in any way shape or form unless again you perceive Honor Society as a boy band. The song suspiciously sounds like the Jonas Brothers hit "Burnin' Up" so you almost want to expect Big Rob to rap somewhere in the middle of the song, has front man Michael Bruno sound at times a cross between Joe and Nick Jonas during the course of the song and the production of the song feels overdone and very slick.
"Full Moon Crazy" follows the formulaic 'Over You' and is easily the best track on the album. Here in 'Full Moon', the band is in its full glory, with its inclination to the pulsating electric guitar licks from Bruno and accompanying drum work from Alex Noyes. The song actually has a catchy and fresh Michael Jackson/Prince-like feel, which is something that the band is better known for. Unfortunately formulaic returns on the next track, "My Own Way", which isn't anything shell-shocking in lyrics, execution, feel or production. It is yet another standard teen pop song that will reach for the heartstrings of the teen, pre-teen and tweener crowds.
"Two Rebels" picks up the beat from the slower "My Own Way" but like "Full Moon Crazy", shows off what the band can really do when left to its own designs. Once again Michael's electric guitar work really drives the song in this one, which should be radio material in the future.
"Why Didn't I" is one of three disasters on the album. The old adage in music of "If it ain't broke, why fix it" is broken in this one as the remake of the original from the "Risky Business" EP is grossly overdone and devoid of unnecessary percussion. Did it need to be tweaked? Perhaps yes. But this remake of "Why Didn't I" as it is rather unnecessary and self-indulgent as Idol judge Simon Cowell likes to say. The worst track on the album in this reviewer's opinion is the next track, "Goodnight My Love". There is a lot to be said for sappy love songs, but this song is absolute overkill and borders on downright annoying.
The fourth best track on the album one needs to check out is "Here Comes Trouble", which follows "Don't Close the Book". The Prince-like feel returns in grand style here and unlike 'Full Moon Crazy" and "Two Rebels", Bruno's electric guitar work is completely in the forefront and really showcases the skills he exhibits on it. If you're peering into their future for them, this song would be a perfect place to start.
"See U in the Dark" is now the third time the now rather iconic and career-defining song has been done and follows "Why Didn't I" on the disaster list. The song, now clocked at a snappy 3:07, cuts down Bruno's original pure electric guitar solo by around 15-17 seconds and replaces the "little girl" lyric verse from the original to "quiet girl", perhaps to suit the need to reach the song out to an under-16 audience. This alone neuters the original sexual subtlety around the song, which showcased the band's original flair for taking creative risks. It is incredibly difficult to make a song sound so normal but yet crackle with a kind of sexual subtlety that only you can catch after many listens. No such thing exists in this third incarnation and at best, it's pretty much muted.
After two formulaic tracks "Nobody Has to Know" and the silly and unnecessary "Sing 4 U", here comes the most curious track on the album, "Rock With You". The instrumentals are incredible and like “Here Comes Trouble”, offer the listener the chance to peer into what could be their future. Unfortunately, the lyrics are very repetitive and average at best and puts what could have been an incredible song down to average at best. "Don't Close The Book" immediately takes out the partial disappointment over "Rock With You" with its incredible uplifting lyrics and theme. This is definitely the kind of slow song they should be doing if they wish to incorporate that more into the repertoire; it is a well-done, well-produced song and rather than make the instrumentals the focus of the song, "Don't Close The Book" will allow the listener to focus more on the lyrical aspect and Michael's vocal delivery. This is the third best song on the album. The final track is from the "Bandslam" soundtrack, "Where Are You Now". It is a decent ending to the album although flipping that with "Don't Close The Book" would make for a much more satisfying end to what is a rather disappointing first effort.
Overall, "Fashionably Late" has too few gems and even above-decent filler to overcome the fact that the four men have essentially traded in their risk-taking and mashing sounds effectively together for something that's more acceptable to a teen-pop hungry audience. This is a band that can easily be more of Maroon 5 type band as they both share a common thread, which is their inclination and influences from artists like Prince and Michael Jackson. Instead the band has been presented as possible sidekicks to the Jonas Brothers which for some musical groups, that's not bad at all but for a multi-faceted band like Honor Society, this might be bad for them in the long run and their album debut is somewhat proof of that. Like said before, if you thought of them as another boy band, then this album works. If you don't or didn't, then this album really is a disappointing and underwhelming effort. It will be very interesting as they go along to see where they are when their second album rolls around. They always say first impressions are important and this first impression? Disappointing.