After going nine years without a new album, Eve 6 released "Speak in Code" on Tuesday.
As fans hoped, the album maintains (lyrically) the same things the band has always been about. The themes: expectation, personal growth, friends, dating the wrong girl and friends who date the wrong girl, have been rehashed in different ways on each album.
The release is (predictably) very different from the past, in pace and structure, but it is different in ways that will make Eve 6 fans comfortable.
Max Collins, singer/bassist/song writer, matches his past lyrical performances, connecting ideas with his unique flow, turns of phrase and rhymes, but doesn't challenge himself vocally the same way he once did. This means the album has a number of catchy hooks and pop-friendly songs, but also makes it less fun to sing-along with than their last release "It's All in Your Head" (2003).
The composition of the album as a whole is most similar to their debut, which makes sense because it has the same producer, Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte).
As with every Eve 6 album in the past, the most radio-friendly song is the second track. In this case, it is "Victoria," a tight, relatable ear bug that invents a new pronunciation of the word "tequila." It is a perfectly Eve 6 single, but it is not the high point of the album.
This is partly a product of overall quality and depth (The 10th track, "Trust Me," is the best song. As Collins describes on the band's website, because they had 8 years of material to choose from, "there aren't any filler moments."), but mostly because Eve 6 returned to their roots.
The album is (musically) entirely different than any of the band's previous releases, which makes it exactly the same (conceptually) as everything they've done in the past.
Each previous album (Eve 6, 1998; Horrorscope, 2000; It's All in Your Head) is so different from the last that it would be presumptuous and inaccurate to describe the band's genre more specifically than "rock."
The debut was primarily a garage/alternative LP. It is produced to accentuate that; the music is raw and catchy; and the lyrics are youthful and, even when they depict failures, optimistic. It is Eve 6's most successful release, commercially and musically.
"Horrorscope", despite the success of nostalgia-ballad "Here's to the Night," is mostly a glam/punk release. The lyrics are supremely confident, which is likely a result of the band's early success (they signed with RCA while still in high school).
"It's All in Your Head" is filled with overproduced ballads, powerful, smoky vocals, and has no track that had any chance of becoming commercially successful. Nearly all the songs are about horrible things, which often makes it depressing when it tries to be empowering. It is a typical, but very good, emo album, and plays like the band was pouting in the studio because RCA wanted them to makes more songs like "Here's to the Night."
When they signed with a new label (Fearless Records), the band appears to have gotten more freedom.
There are two (maybe three) songs on "Speak in Code" that could be used for a slow dance at Eighth Grade Formal, and that's for the best. Mostly, the album is a cerebral, mature look at the growth that occurs when you achieve too much early success, drink too much and date the wrong girls.
One of the things that makes Eve 6 endearing to fans is their refusal to record a traditional love song. No one in the band falls in love; they start in love, get dumped, and then rely on friends to (sometimes literally) talk them back from the edge.
This is not an especially romantic or positive outlook, and keeps their commercial success on a level below super-stardom, but helps fans rally behind the specific niche.
"Speak in Code" is a strong compliment to the rest of the Eve 6 catalog. While it lacks the rawness, energy and emotion of their previous releases, it gives listeners a new perspective on the band and has no weak point. It is neither entirely similar nor entirely different than the albums that came before it, and that is exactly what fans should have expected.
Eve 6 will perform in Indianapolis at Klipsch Music Center on Saturday, May 26 as part of the May Day 2012 lineup.