Reggie and the Full Effect’s 41 is an album that, true to its name, draws influence and pays tribute to every stop and start along James Dewees’ prolific career.
James Dewees should be no stranger to many alternative rock fans, having spent the past 20 years in boundary pushing bands in various roles from drumming for Coalesce, to playing keyboards for The Get Up Kids, to getting high-profile touring gigs with MTV staples like New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance. However, despite spending over twenty years backing up some of the most important acts in the industry, Dewees has been able to keep a relatively consistent output of keyboard-heavy, tongue-in-cheek power-pop jams under the moniker of Reggie and The Full Effect to mixed results.
The first two projects under the “Reggie” moniker performed respectably; featuring several skits and lo-fi power-pop songs, the albums put forth a very playful foot forward. These early efforts were followed by a progressive darkening of mood as Dewees’ personal life was facing some hardships that culminated in 2005’s Songs Not To Get Married To and the darker 2008 Last Stop: Crappy Town after which Reggie went on hiatus and came back with 2012’s crowdfunded effort, No Country for Old Musicians. It was then released by Pure Noise Records, and was a goofy compilation of songs ranging from everything to Kanji Tattoos and Korean revenge films that struck home with older fans, and it opened up opportunities for further touring with old friends like Say Anything and Saves The Day.
After their successful reunion, many were left wondering where the group would go next which brings us to their new release, 41, out now through Pure Noise Records. The record begins with a slightly jarring skit that revolves around a late night craving to engage in inhalant abuse (?) which is supposed to be a nugget of Reggie’s trademark humor that honestly falls flat and is worth a skip as it doesn’t really add or take away from the album. After this awkward start, we are thrust into “Il Pesce Svedese,” a bright power-pop jam reminiscent of the energy and stylistic presentation found on Songs Not To Get Married To. The song is one of the brightest moments on the album; it challenges the listener with shifting 4/4 into 5/4 meters and singalong lyricism with anthemic phrasing, a territory in which Reggie is most consistent. The album transitions into a grouping of songs that further explore themes like isolation (“Alone Again”) and jadedness (“Heartbreak”) which both come with growing older. These songs range in their effectiveness; from brilliant genre blending, to an off-putting tribute with the song “Heartbreak” reminding me of the intro to “Funkytown,” it may work for some and may turn others off.
At the midpoint of the album, we are treated to a great two song combo in “Karate Class” and “The Horrible Year.” “Karate Class” carries itself with the swagger of MCR in The Black Parade era boasting a catchy riff that is just as massive as it is memorable. It’s a moment where the gravelly voiced Dewees really melds with the mood of the music as he acknowledges his need to be kicking ass, a rather simple affirmation that is relatable yet wholly specific to the writer and his peaks/valleys.
“The Horrible Year” is far and away one of the strongest points of the album. It’s a rather straightforward affair, lyrically dealing with being away which culminates with a harmonized recollection of their first meeting which builds and builds, and ends with an almost shouted vocal melody as the track crescendos—a moment that truly soars over the rest of the album.
41 then takes a rather odd turn with a vocal-less electro-dance number; a slightly clumsy U2 sounding song that doesn’t really go anywhere, followed by a flat comedy number that plays off the word “Trap” and the genre “Trap.”
This album is full of great moments that will no doubt satisfy prior fans, and has moments that will no doubt gain Reggie and The Full Effect some new listeners, however, attempting to appeal to both long time listeners and old-time listeners is a detriment to the album because where it lags is where it could’ve been cut down. The comedy takes/electro-dance songs fall kind of flat and really remove the casual listener from the record. The album’s strongest moments are when Dewees allows himself to be vulnerable and is focused on expressing emotions musically rather than trying to appeal to an old fanbase. Moments like “Karate Class” where there is both a sense of humor/charisma and seriousness are really endearing. James Dewees is obviously yet to hit his creative peak and if this is a sign of output to come, the future for Reggie and The Full Effect looks bright.