"Amateur Smut Writer," the opening number, begins with a thick bass riff (courtesy of new bassist Rick Stoner) and segues into a driving rock song that goes through a series of complex time changes and vocal harmonies, but is continually propelled by guitarist Jon Jon Reider's gruff vocals. While Reider's wailing sometimes sounds generic, and lyrics about "challenging the world" ("Workshop") and coming home to a nurturing woman ("Sarah's Smile") smack of naïveté, Reider's ability to switch into whimsical falsettos keeps his delivery from becoming stale. Like Mike Patton (of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas fame), Reider is a fan of sputtering if the music demands it.
Mixing soulful vocals with noisy guitars, "The Kid Across the Street" is the album's most schizophrenic song and not entirely listenable, but it deserves credit for attempting to bridge genres. At times, the band tries too hard to be clever -- the random use of electronic samples ("Little Lady") as well as a phone message from a "crazy white boy in Cleveland" set to music ("Phone Message") come off as self-conscious attempts to be artsy. Still, it's refreshing to hear a metal band that doesn't aspire to sound like Korn. -- Niesel