It's been said that "Oklahoma is Texas without the charm." While the state is known for cattle and oil (nice combination), Oklahoma's main claim to fame are the Sooners. Based in Norman, the college football team is a religion in these parts, and the faithful are zealots.
With the name All-American Rejects it's easy to assume they might be wash-outs from the hard scrabble world of Norman. But the absence of angst and rage clearly points to Stillwater. North of Oklahoma City and west of Tulsa, it's a quiet burgh far from the limelight.
The duo of vocalist/bassist Tyson Ritter and guitarist Nick Wheeler began recording in '00. Some tracks got local radio play that led to opening act gigs on small tours. The following year's EP "Same Girl, New Songs" (great title) led to a Midwest tour. Guitarist Mike Kennerty and drummer Chris Gaylor joined and All-American Rejects landed a Doghouse/Dreamworks contract.
Their self-titled major label debut arrived in late '02. The single "Swing, Swing" grazed the Top 20 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart. They did far better a few years later with "It Ends Tonight," from their '05 effort "Move Along." The song became a hit and an iTunes favorite nearly a year-and-a-half after the album's release.
While work was underway on their third album, All-American Rejects released a live DVD documenting their recent tour - "All-American Rejects - Tournado." Also, the song "The Future Has Arrived" landed on the "Meet The Robinsons" soundtrack.
The group dropped off the '07 Warped Tour to continue to work on the album and got a song from the set, "The Real World," on the Madden NFL 09 video game soundtrack (the song was also part of Rock Band 2's loadable content). Later, that song was featured on '09's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" soundtrack but was not in the film.
"Gives You Hell," the lead single from '08's "When The World Comes Down," went to #1 on the iTunes chart on its way to becoming the fifth most downloaded song of the year. The song's video also went to #1 on VH1's Top 20 Countdown. Only Ritter's leg infection, which required surgery and a cancellation of some dates, slowed All-American Rejects down.
That summer, the group joined Weezer and Fall Out Boy for the second half of the Blink-182 Reunion Tour before performing at Asia's first MTV World Stage Live In Malaysia concert with Hoobastank and Kasabian. Following a '10 Winter Olympics appearance in Vancouver, the band also wrote and recorded the song "The Poison" for the "Almost Alice" compilation, a collection of songs representing the Tim Burton film Alice In Wonderland.
Prior to the release of the band's fourth set, '12's "Kids In The Street," Ritter announced via Twitter that ex-Taking Back Sunday bassist Matt Rubano had joined the band for live performances. Ritter added that he would continue to play bass on the group's studio recordings.
2003: The All-American Rejects
2005: Move Along
2008: When The World Comes Down
2012: Kids In The Street
The lean sound of All-American Rejects' self-titled debut is occasionally augmented by keyboards or loops but the songs remain uncluttered. Single "Swing, Swing" is a retro-80s synth-Wave pop/Rocker. The more textured (acoustic guitar) "Too Far Gone" is also notable. The album rolls on amiably enough but without much to get real excited about. Still, it shows promise.
"Move Along" continues the All-American Rejects' trajectory. It's an uptempo, lively, lean and some-what mean power pop/Punk effort. The bouncy and engaging "Dirty Little Secret" and "Top Of The World" are the primary attractions. "Stab In My Back" features strong vocals while still kicking. Ballad "It Ends Tonight" is emotional but the synth driven closer "Can't Take It" is laughable. Just cause you can play and arrange this stuff Mr. Wheeler, doesn't mean you should. In between, the Rejects nail a handful of keepers.
There's nothing like a revenge song. "Gives You Hell," with its quirky keyboard based rhythm and Punk sneer, fits the bill. The image of some schmuck who once made life difficult is now (and forever) stuck in a dead-end 9 to 5 rut is too hard to resist. Turns out a lot of people feel the same way. There are several points on "When The World Comes Down" where All-American Rejects find a telling common ground.
The group's fascination with synth strings continues on the pop-Rock treat "Fallin' Apart" and "Real World." But here the strings reinforce the songs rather than detract.
"Breakin'" tumbles out, messy but full of energy, and the chords on "Believe" fly like sparks. The slower songs range from the acoustic ballad "Mona Lisa (When The World Comes Down)" to the Rock oriented "Back To Me." As good as they are, those songs are eclipsed by "Another Heart Calls," a melodic track about relationship changes.
"Listening to "Beekeeper's Daughter," with the R&B horns before the song takes a decidedly Rock turn, it would be easy to assume that the All-American Rejects have gone through major changes on "Kids In The Street." However, the group's indie Rock prevails whether they go trashy ("Walk Over Me") or synth-pop (the title track).
"Fast & Slow," which is mostly fast, stands out for its ascending guitar riff and lyrics about a girl appearing in her tank top. Can't miss with that. The ballad "Affection" tries to be heart rendering with the line "I don't believe in good, goodbyes" and comes close to pulling it off. Set opener, "Someday's Gone" with pensive lyrics and "Bleed Into Your Mind," which ponders the "pieces you swept away" when creating a persona, show some thoughtfulness without dwelling on it.