The Mouseketeers’ prerogative, it seems, is to rage against the Disney machine that made them. In lieu of racy Vanity Fair photo shoots or leaked full-frontal iPhone pics, however, brothers Nick, 16, Joe, 19, and Kevin, 21, have given us their rebel yell in album form. Lines, Vines and Trying Times is the sound of a not-quite-quarter-life crisis, JoBros-style: heartthrob angst wrapped in glossy hooks, soaring pop-rock choruses, and (plus ça change) really great hair.
On their fourth release in as many years, the boys don’t entirely topple their Tiger Beat pedestal, but with Lines’ PG-13 sentiments and wailing guitars, they try hard to leave their tween-dream innocence behind. That leads, inevitably, to a few clunky metaphors: The pensive ”Turn Right” compares life to NASCAR, while the admittedly addictive ”Poison Ivy” equates love with — ahem — a bad rash. When the album’s brash lead single, ”Paranoid,” and the sprawling ”Don’t Speak” reach for a sort of baby-U2 grandiosity (The Joshua Shrub?), they nearly pull it off. Alas, even guest rapper Common can’t save misguided bank-robber narrative ”Don’t Charge Me for the Crime”; it’s the sonic equivalent of being held at gunpoint by a baby rabbit.
Determinedly wholesome entries like ”Fly With Me” and ”Keep It Real” bow dutifully to the Jonases’ younger fan base, but darker bits, such as the apparent Taylor Swift dis ”Much Better” (”Now I’m done with superstars/And all the tears on her guitar…. You’re much better”), cut through the NutraSweet. In the end, ruminative piano ballad ”Black Keys” feels the most honest; its quiet brushstrokes of teenage despair easily transcend Lines’ misdemeanor mutinies. B-
Download This: Listen to the song Poison Ivy at last.fm