It might be contentious, but it’s somewhat easy to see why Shinedown are one of the bigger US radio rock bands. Their choice to stay away from the more dour, sludgy post-grunge tones of their contemporaries has always fared well for them, and, at least in terms of straightforward hooks, they’ve at least managed in the past to deliver something that can hit with impact, not hindered whatsoever by Brent Smith’s genuinely impressive vocals. That’s where a lot of the praise tends to end though, as beyond that, Shinedown have mostly been just another direct-to-radio product shipped straight off the conveyor belt, and following in the footsteps of so many of their peers in albums that refuse to budge from their lofty, aggrandised perch, and wind up as totally derivative of themselves and numerous others.
And yet, they’ve become another success story from it; Sound Of Madness was a decent introduction around a decade ago, but they’ve not lived up to it since and have faced no repercussions for it. It’s difficult to see anything changing for Attention Attention either, as once again, Shinedown have doubled down on the polish that’s infiltrated so much of hard rock, with not much else to along with it. As much as this album has been sold as a “concept album”, following the journey of a man as he learns to embrace positivity in his life, that really only seems like a get-out clause for Shinedown to continue on a typically samey lyrical path. Granted, it might be structured a bit better in a segmentation of each theme, but nothing within that changes; the more confrontational rock tracks like Devil and Pyro break out the same highly-buffed punches as usual, while syrupy ballads and self-esteem anthems like Get Up and Brilliant are just as overstated and washed-out as ever. Perhaps most bizarre of all is Special, an anti-esteem track of sorts to reiterate how chasing fame isn’t worth it as no one’s really special, and with the cinematic strings and reserved applause clearly designed to lift it up as much as possible, it’s almost impossible to decipher what Shinedown are actually going for, and whatever is, it doesn’t work.
What’s not hard to decipher in the slightest though, is Shinedown’s instrumental direction, and how it’s essentially a cut-and-paste job of processed hard rock with zero texture or distinction. There’s at least enough room for Black Soul or Monsters to shoot for the skyscraping hooks that admittedly do serve them well, but any edge has polished right off and synthesised by buzzing films that are just grating to listen to. That’s assuming that Shinedown actually want to have an edge though, which the vast majority of Attention Attention seems completely at odds with. Once again it’s the fault of ubiquitous overproduction that dominates an already basic rock sound; something like The Human Radio could’ve been so much better if stripped to the core essentials without extraneous electronics trying – and failing – to add greater atmosphere. But some of these tracks are just beyond saving anyway, like the blunt thud of Kill Your Conscience or the weird formlessness of Darkside in its transitions from rumbling blocks of fuzz to delicate synth skips with little to no warning. It’s honestly baffling how an album as high-budget as this can come across as so inept at basic song construction, but Shinedown at least have that to their name to distinguish between bands who can at least do that.
Really though, it’s not like anyone will remember this album. As soon as the next once comes around – either from Shinedown themselves or any other band with even a vague resemblance – Attention Attention will simply be seen as another attempt from a band for whom spinning their wheels has become the norm now. The occasional solid hook or melody might last a bit longer, but they’re only going to be replicated again next time so is there even any point in that? Probably not, and it’s hard to think of an album released this year that feels as pointless as this one as a result.
For fans of: Theory Of A Deadman, Seether, 3 Doors Down
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Attention Attention’ by Shinedown is out now on Atlantic Records.