It’s easy to imagine Stacy Jones of American Hi-Fi racing down the neon-lit streets of L.A., snorting coke through a flaming $100 bill off a stripper’s ass and then cozying down with a pad of paper to write sentimental pop songs. The band responsible for the 2001 smash, “Flavor of the Week,” American Hi-Fi returns with Hearts on Parade, a pop-punk treatise on the nuances of Los Angeles night life.
American Hi-Fi’s sound on their new album is a continuation of the successful formula that embedded their singles in the consciousness of American pop culture. It lies somewhere between the melodramatic energy of Blink-182 and the epic lovesickness of the Goo Goo Dolls. The catchy qualities of this late ’90s style led to the coveted chance to appear on Now 7. The harmony, rhythm and three-minute song structure remain decidedly unaltered on Hearts on Parade, and the lyrical drama placed on the L.A. party scene is particularly irksome when considering the band’s newfound wealth.
Everyone knows that L.A. nightlife is vapid and glamorous — an empty façade. Yet, Jones seems to have had a callow preconception of this soul-sucking culture, only to be surprised by its actual nature. In “Something Real,” Jones cries with maudlin tones, “Nobody said it would be easy / Fighting your way through another day / We all want something real.” However, on “Hell Yeah,” the album’s second track, Jones depicts a joyous guys-night-out image of the club — picking up girls and competing for phone numbers. Does he love it or hate it? Jones’s bipolar attitude alternates between extremes; a coexistent like and dislike for materialism and decadence.
Along with the emotional immaturity of Jones’ lyrics, the musical content is painfully derivative. In “We Can’t Be Friends,” the background vocal harmonies are virtual duplicates of The Beatles’ “You Won’t See Me.” Furthermore, “Highs and Lows” opens with a piercing guitar line and a gruff bass riff that imitates, almost note for note, the opening line on Gang of Four’s masterpiece, “Damaged Goods.” Jones continues this butchery by name-dropping The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis Bold as Love” and ZZ Top.
The combination of Jones’s childish behavior and his fellow band members’ unoriginal ideas reaffirm American Hi-Fi’s ineptitude. Hearts on Parade suffers from a lack of musical ingenuity — a void that the band wishes to fill through calculated imitation, in which it fails miserably.
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5