Since my first entry on Hey Monday and their debut album Hold On Tight, my affinity for them has grown from a casual flame to a fanboy fire. Their awesome blend of tight melody, wild energy, and a heaping helping of sugary sweetness has become a staple on my iPod over the course of 2010, and I’m happy to report that Hey Monday’s new EP, Beneath It All, upholds the torch of previous excellence, though in ways I didn’t quite expect.
Rather than a continuation of the punk-y power pop that propelled Hold On Tight to new heights of guilty pleasure-dom, Beneath It All is an expansion of Hey Monday’s sonic palate. This does not mean that they’ve immediately overblown their sound with a backing orchestra and too many instrumental layers (an exercise in restraint I wish many of their pop punk peers would also try), but this does mean that none of their songs come as fast and (cheerfully) furious as “Set Off” or “Run, Don’t Walk.”
However, this also means that Beneath It All sounds much more unique overall and less same-sounding than many tracks on the first one (I love them, but I recognize some similar elements between “Hurricane Streets,” “Josey,” and “Arizona”). In particular, “Hangover” creates a slower (though still rousing) stomp-clap backdrop for a song that’s equal parts remorseful and hooky, but undeniably HM. The lead single and current world-dominator, “I Don’t Wanna Dance,” sounds like they just dropped any pretenses of sounding “punk” and went for the pop jugular, and it plays all-the-better for it. And my favorite from the EP, “Wondergirl,” is probably the best Avril Lavigne song ever that was never written by Avril Lavigne.
Yes, I'm putting my picture of Hey Monday playing "Wish You Were Here" at this year's Warped Tour up. No, it's not bragging. Well, maybe a little.
My biggest fear going into Beneath It All, apart from the aforementioned overdubbing of strings, was that they would scale back their energy, sounding slick, but ultimately flaccid (this is the part where I would take a cheap shot at All Time Low, but I’m bigger than that). To an extent, the energy has been tapered back, but each song still crackles with life, with Cassadee Pope giving a strong, pretty vocal delivery on each, and the rest of the members giving their all to keep up.
Lyrically, I really like this EP. I don’t usually pay attention to lyrics when I listen to power pop (many songs’ meanings are often too nebulous for me to understand), but most of the songs are thematically strong. “Wondergirl” is about a girl trying to tell her significant other that she can’t solve his personal problems for him (“don’t say you love me when you hate yourself”), something I can definitely relate to. “I Don’t Wanna Dance” is about trying to rebuff various pick-ups from douchers (“I don’t wanna dance, so let it go, you’ll never take me home”), which is both atypical for this sort of music and delightfully ironic, considering the actual song is so damn danceable.
A screen-cap from the video for "I Don't Wanna Dance." One of the better "you're not gettin' none" songs of the past few years.
Probably the only thing to gripe about with Beneath It All is the fact that there are only six songs. Because this is an EP, this isn’t really a flaw at all, but I want more, doggonnit! That said, this is a great placeholder while waiting for Hey Monday’s alleged new full-length album that’s coming in 2011, and an excellent product in the besides.