MAN OVERBOARD • Heavy Love (Clear Red Splatter) • LP
With little fanfare and even less gimmickry, the previously self-proclaimed defenders of pop-punk Man Overboard are quietly releasing their fourth studio LP ‘Heavy Love’. A prolific band who have tended to leave any experimentation to the EP format, the New Jersey quintet have produced yet another workmanlike record with no grand reinvention evident. Their influences are readily apparent, the tunes are uncomplicated, while the overall sound fits somewhere in the middle of their previous three albums on the poppy-to-punky ratio. To that end, deciding to work with veteran producer Bill Stevenson was an inspired choice, since he brings a no-nonsense approach to proceedings that might not be flashy, but keeps this energetic band focused on their strengths, and less reliant on forced detours into “fad of the month” territory.
Lyrically, ‘Heavy Love’ is probably too nostalgic for an act entering their eight year together. Not only are the themes overly common, but even the situational specifics have a sense of deja vu about them. As an example, ‘Cliffhanger’ has “at the park at 4am, drinking beer out of a can, wishing I could understand what it takes to be a man”. The same track also proves how self-deprecating the songwriting is, stating “I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m depressed, and whatever’s in front of me I’ll always see as something less”. Thankfully, the lyrics are delivered in sincere and passionate fashion by Man Overboard’s trademark call and response approach. In Zac Eisenstein & Nik Bruzzese, the band have a dual attack that complements each other well, since their vocals are distinguishable from each other and slide easily enough across the genre’s spectrum. As is to be expected, there’s also the occasional gang chant or emphasized sing-along (‘Borderline’ and ‘Anything’) for the sake of hooky immediacy.
While there isn’t any filler on ‘Heavy Love’, a couple of the poppier tunes (opener ‘Now That You’re Home’ and ‘She’s In Pictures’) do tend to float off into the background. Fans of the band’s earlier work may be impressed by the pacy ‘Reality Check’ and 'Cliffhanger', while any musical progression is intentionally understated on growers such as ‘The Note’ and bass-driven closer ‘A Love That I Can’t Have’. Needless to say, the band still have not delivered anything as individually memorable as early favorite ‘Montrose’, although ‘Splinter’, 'Cliffhanger' and 'Invisible' would be the band's best album triumvirate to date! At the end of the day, you should already know what you’re getting with the familiar - but satisfying - ‘Heavy Love’, and it’s very much an album for already entrenched Man Overboard fans. "And the sad thing is that I've never been better" proclaim Eisenstein & Bruzzese on 'Cliffhanger'... Fellas, there's nothing sad about it in the case of this album.