Smile, It's the End of the World
On the quartet's sophomore effort, Hawk Nelson continues to refine its pop-punk recipe, bringing in a few unusual influences while still maintaining the balance of sweetness and crunchiness that made their debut so effortlessly enjoyable. Each of the first four tracks on Smile, It's the End of the World is a perfect, by-the-numbers combination of big guitars, tight harmonies, and catchy hooks: "The Show" offers a nod to R&B, but "The One Thing I Have Left" is a straight-up party rocker, while "Bring 'Em Out" is a shamelessly Pavlovian audience-participation number (complete with cowbell!) and "Everything You Ever Wanted" is a power ballad that the Click Five would kill for. Later things get a little more interesting, and a little bit less obvious: "Nothing Left to Show" flirts with screamo, while "Is Forever Enough" flirts with genuine old-school punk rock before quickly bringing in the harmonic sweetness. "Something on My Mind" opens with a Beatlesque piano, and features one of the strangest choruses in recent memory — "You'll nevah, evah, pull my levah/Not today and not forevah" is stirring and all, but does it actually mean anything? Several tracks later comes "Hello," a song with lyrics that are stupid even by pop-punk's generally broad standards, and it threatens to close the album on a down note, but "It's Over" and the contemplative "14" bring things back to solid ground. All in all, Hawk Nelson has nicely avoided the dreaded sophomore slump.