Florida’s We Still Dream! merge new-school pop punk in the vein of The Wonder Years and Man Overboard with the punk-inspired pop and alternative rock that found its way onto airwaves in the ’90s.
There are several moments throughout “Something to Smile About” that are strongly reminiscent of bands like Lit, particularly on “Back to Then,” a song about simpler times spent skateboarding with friends that even employs some of those spoken-word-through-a-megaphone asides (“Oh shit, the cops!”) you rarely hear anymore.
Some of it works pretty well.
Album opener “Happily Never After” is a head-bobbing, Movielife-esque rocker with spot-on harmonies and some impressive drum work.
“So Much Worse” brings to mind “From Under the Cork Tree”-era Fall Out Boy, allowing vocalist Dustin Monk to show off his impressive range.
Meanwhile, closing track “Dissipate” has a darker quality that makes it sound like a lost track from Jimmy Eat World’s “Futures.”
Unfortunately, the band’s lyrics don’t live up to the standards of any of the aforementioned bands.
It’s not that they’re bad necessarily, just bland. Whereas The Wonder Years can take what would otherwise be a standard pop punk song and infuse it with a harrowing, ultra-detailed and extremely personal narrative, We Still Dream are content to deal in much more generalized and, as a consequence, more generic lyrics.
While the band’s overall aesthetic occasionally brings back memories of some of the great emo from the early ’00s (Taking Back Sunday, mid-period Saves the Day), the broad, at times cliched lyrics keep the album from rising above the level of audio wallpaper and make a clearly talented sound cookie-cutter.
That’s unfortunate, because the crisp production, hooky melodies and songs that alternate between galloping punk and mid-tempo power-pop could have made for a memorable summer record.
Instead, what we’re left with is an album that’s pleasant enough, but ultimately too light to leave a mark.
Here’s hoping the band is able to reach down a little deeper for the next record and come up with some more unique lyrics because there’s clearly potential here for something more interesting than simply inoffensive background music.