WHEN YOUR HEART STOPS BEATING
INTERSCOPE RECORDS 14.11.06
If Blink 182 were the immature teenager hitting the crossroads into maturity and being unsure of which path to choose, +44 were surely the better option. As soon as the first track on the debut album When Your Heart Stops Beating, ‘Lycanthrope’, begins to play, you can immediately recognise the vocals of "that guy who was in Blink..." namely Mark Hoppus. I'm not saying +44 sound too much like Blink 182. Far from it. Whereas Angels And Airwaves have tried way too hard to distance themselves from the traditional Blink sound, +44 have accepted it, moulded it and used it to sculpt something different, deeper and altogether just as good. Still, it can be a little unnerving. At some point in every song on this album, that familiar ring of Blink manages to catch your ear and remind you just who two members of +44 are. Still, there's something fresh in When Your Heart Stops Beating that makes it a worthy listen.
‘Lycanthrope’ makes a good opener, and the lyrics are dramatically different from what we're used to hearing from Hoppus and Barker. I hesitate to use the word "emo" but the lyrics are certainly more emotional and heartfelt than ever before, "this second counts as the rest of your life" etc. ‘Baby Come On’ reminds me strongly of ‘Girl At The Rock Show’ somehow, although there are few similarities. The album's title track has to be a favourite for me. ‘When Your Heart Stops Beating’ has an element of humour, but still appears a little dark, "I'll be there when your last breath's taken away / In the dark when there's no one listening" is a pretty harsh line. ‘Little Death’ is slower with a similar theme. "You'll close your eyes and see me / A little death makes life more meaningful". I worryingly find myself agreeing with this sentiment.
‘155’, following this, has a little more of a synthetic, almost dance-like vibe to it. The chorus is catchy, the verses short and simple. ‘Lillian’ has a nice intro that goes on for just a little too long, but breaks into some sweet melodies. ‘Cliffdiving’ is another personal favourite as it’s both cheerful and sad at once, combining emotional lyrics with amusing situations. ‘Weatherman’ doesn't particularly stand out, except to say that it is a lot more depressing than any of the other tracks. ‘No It Isn't’ has a lot more calm angst within it. The words are more powerful, the emotion more genuine. ‘Make You Smile’ seems a really cute song to me, about a guy who really cares for someone. I'm a sucker for cheesy romance. The female vocals are a great addition. ‘Chapter 13’ makes good use of Hoppus' vocal range and the final line is suitably dramatic, "I'm scraped and sober but there's no one listening to me at all".
The two bonus tracks on the special edition, acoustic versions of ‘Baby Come On’ and ‘Weatherman’ are well done repetitions with a little less oomph but a lot more feeling. ‘Weatherman’ particularly becomes very much a lighter waving ballad.
Overall? I liked Blink 182. Angels And Airwaves were a huge disappointment. But after that, +44 have truly exceeded my expectations. It’s not Blink 182, and it’s not fantastic. But its pretty darn good.