After a six-year gap between albums, California quartet Hoobastank returned with the pop-friendly Push Pull, a surprising sixth effort that traded their early nu-metal/post-grunge hurricane for a smooth, R&B- and funk-influenced rumination on love that was inspired by Duran Duran, Chic, and David Bowie. Fatherhood and marriage have changed the Doug Robb-fronted group, resulting in honest lyrics that address cooling passions, relationship tedium, and the real-life issues associated with trouble in paradise. For those expecting another "Crawling in the Dark" or "The Reason," Push Pull is jarring, to say the least, an outlier in the band's catalog that should prove divisive. Produced by Matt Wallace, Push Pull is an apt reflection of two of that producer's past collaborators: Faith No More and Maroon 5. Extracting some of Faith No More's funk-rock and weaving it with Maroon 5's smooth, blue-eyed soul-pop, Wallace reinvigorates Hoobastank's approach most blatantly on the strutting "Push Pull" and the achingly sweet "More Beautiful," one of the first examples of Robb's falsetto. These oddities of electronic disco-funk are tempered with more familiar rock tracks like the chugging "True Believer," a saucy number wherein cowbell and handclaps buffer Robb's romantic pleas to "Resurrect me, making me come/Make me come alive." While "True Believer" plays on unabashed sexuality, its counterpart, "Buzzkill (Before You Say Goodbye)," tries to recapture the same flame of desire with yearning honesty. Push Pull also includes a Muse-esque cover of Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels," which fits with the album's overall sentiment, but is ultimately unnecessary considering the number of unexpected turns to digest elsewhere. This is a Hoobastank hitherto unseen, and the results are refreshing if listeners can move beyond this abrupt sonic shift. Hook-heavy, impeccably produced, and brave, Push Pull shines a light on all the ugly and difficult issues that face a matured and seasoned relationship years down the line when reality sets in and those sparks of new love have faded.
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo