When done right, pop-rock is a genre that can seemingly give bands worldwide appeal in an incredibly short amount of time. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, the success of the bands at the forefront of pop-rock such as All Time Low and 5 Seconds Of Summer is undeniable. With ‘Ambitions’ Tokyo outfit One OK Rock at times give off the idea that they can be slightly more than just a quartet with a flurry of light-hearted hooks – and instead be a more mature, eclectic mix of where the genre could potentially go. Although these moments are few and far between.
Despite the youthful, brash persona of One OK Rock, the band are just over a decade into their existence, and have spent their time dipping their collective feet into a proverbial swimming pool of musical styles. With previous albums featuring screaming, electronica and ballads as well as their standard run of the mill chorus extravaganza’s. It resulted in an atmosphere where fans might not know what to expect from ‘Ambitions’.
Album opener ‘Bombs Away’ may come as a slight surprise to some, with its interesting dose of electronic ambience before descending into a spacey, thumping chorus. It puts the Tokyo quartet in a position where it seems apparent that what follows may not exactly break apart the conventions of pop-rock, but can at least cause a few cracks.
Before long though ‘Ambitions’ falls into an album lacking in mature, creative music and instead, somewhat expectedly brims of youth, but not of quality. Songs such as the lyrically bland ‘Bedroom Warfare’ and ‘American Girls’ become a tough listen, it’s not just the lyrics that lack endeavour here, musically the plodding uninventive tones make the tracks feel monotonous and void of ideas and direction.
Both All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth and Australian heartthrobs 5 Seconds Of Summer feature on the record, on tracks ‘Jaded’ and ‘Take What You Want’ respectively. Both songs are symbolic of ‘Ambitions’ in general; with generic, clean cut choruses that do little for One OK Rock’s artistic integrity, but will most likely sit well with their current fan-base.
‘I Was King’ is one of the few moments on the record where the quartet manage to give themselves some crossover appeal. The mammoth chorus while not exactly a technical marvel, is still strong enough to pull on the heartstrings with emphatic vocals from frontman Taka Moriuchi. The song is an undoubted highlight on what is a sweet, clean and often sub-par album.
‘Ambitions’ is an album that pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin, which is mostly its downfall. If One OK Rock’s hope going into this album was to produce something to further their grip on a young, pop-rock crowd; they should more than achieve this here. If it was to broaden their appeal to a wider range of audiences and show off some technical prowess – then the mark has been well and truly missed.
Review by Kristian Pugh