Rascal Flatts' new album marks 14 years since the band's first album came out in 2000, and while the guys show many signs of maturity they are still called the "boys" by fans, critics, and fellow artists. The reason for this is quite evident on "Rewind," which showcases some new sounds without sacrificing that classic Rascal Flatts sound. I've been a fan of RF since "Feels Like Today" and eagerly await every new album. Anyway, my review for RF's last album "Changed" was well-received, so I'm going to write a similar song-by-song review of the new album here:
1. "Payback" - A lot of songs show off Gary's higher vocal range, but it's pretty rare to hear his lower range like on this song. It sounds like a contemporary country song, but there's a surprise hard-rock inspired breakdown toward the end that surprised even me. Overall a good song with a fresh sound, but generally doesn't stand out too much in their overall repertoire. 8.5/10
2. "Rewind" - The boys are following tradition by releasing a solid but somewhat generic sounding single to kick off the release of a new album. The lead-in guitar riff is reminiscent of Incubus's "Drive" and definitely a pleasant surprise. This song is a solid single but, like most of the band's lead singles, unlikely to have as much lasting appeal as other songs. 7.5/10
3. "I Have Never Been to Memphis" - This album is a little light on the slower, sappy songs like this, but that doesn't mean they aren't welcome. It starts off like a fairly standard Flatts song, but the chorus has a very fresh feel to it. It reminds me of ballad-type pop songs from the 90s, which I personally enjoy but may not appeal to absolutely everyone. Still, a nice message and fantastic instrumentals make this a very solid song. 9/10
4. "DJ Tonight" - The name of this song is a little misleading; it sounds like it would be an upbeat party song (think "Tonight Tonight") with little substance, but ends up with a very catchy chorus and a cool theme. It starts out sounding a little silly and sappy, but turns into a fun love song. Sounds a little bit like Nothing Like This's "Summer Young," and the reference to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" made me laugh out loud. 8.5/10
5. "Powerful Stuff" - Another interesting lead-in guitar riff, makes me think of Santana's collaborations. This is one of my personal favorites on the album with a very catchy chorus and strong lyrics. Sounds great and the style is a great example of the new but familiar tone that I mentioned before. Powerful stuff, indeed. 9.5/10
6. "Riot" - If, like me, you expect a song called "Riot" to be upbeat and jovial, you'd be quite mistaken. This is actually one of the slower songs on the album, with a message along the lines of "if you come back to me, I'd get so excited that it would be like a riot." So, take that as you will. The sound of the song reminds me of 98 Degrees (the boy band)--which, again, can be a good or bad thing depending on personal taste. It's a nice song that grows on you (and has a great guitar solo and bridge), but unfortunately seems destined to go mostly ignored by all but hardcore Flatts fans. 7.5/10
7. "Night of Our Lives" - Here's an example of one of the most common themes in Flatts songs: freedom, having a good time, getting away from it all, etc. etc. Despite sounding like reusing that same theme would be tiresome, this song sounds equal parts familiar, comfortable, and fresh. Another of my personal favorites, the chorus is extremely catchy and just pleasant. Thematically, it's quite bittersweet, and there's a great contrast between a solemn verse and an upbeat chorus. 9/10
8. "I Like the Sound of That" - More of a country-sounding song, but not twangy. There's a reference to Justin Timberlake, too: "you sing along with some Timberlake bumpin'/but he ain't got nothin' on you." Now there's a compliment! Another excellent chorus, but not necessarily that original-sounding. Still, it's a pleasant song to listen to, something like "Sunrise" from the previous album. Not too ambitious, but good nonetheless. 8/10
9. "Aftermath" - I immediately liked this song when I first heard it, for several reasons. First, the lyrics remind me a bit of one of my Flatts favorites, "Pieces" from Me and My Gang. The instrumentals and vocals both portray the melancholy and sadness that accompanies a heartbreak. The great thing about these kinds of songs is that they're written from the point of view of someone who is learning and growing from heartbreak, and not someone wallowing in self-pity. The sound reminds me a bit of Bruno Mars, too. Interestingly, this and other songs on the album bear a passing resemblance to Adam Lambert's album "For Your Entertainment," and for good reason: Howard Benson, who produced Lambert's album, produced this and a few other songs for RF. There's even an entirely different song on Lambert's album called "Aftermath." Coincidence? Probably. 9/10
10. "I'm On Fire" - Here's a fun and solid song, but probably the weakest on the album for a couple of reasons. First, the theme is very similar to Changed's "Hot in Here" and the chorus even sounds a little bit similar. It's by no means a bad song, but it's certainly not the band's best. 7/10
11. "Life's a Song" - A powerful song that also reminds me of songs from the 90s (or around then), especially "The Living Years" by Mike and the Mechanics. It even has some added background vocals, which work well. A great ballad with an uplifting message; never gets too sappy but it does kind of lose some momentum toward the end. 8.5/10
12. "Honeysuckle Lazy" - Here's one of the more country-sounding songs, which has more of a rock sound along the lines of "Me and My Gang" or "Bob That Head." It was co-written by frequent RF collaborator Jeffrey Steele, who also helped pen songs like the aforementioned "Me and My Gang" and "These Days." Not my personal favorite, but a strong addition to the catalog that's sure to please fans of more contemporary country-rock songs. Look for someone tearing it up on the banjo toward the end. 8/10
13. "The Mechanic" - If I had heard just the beginning of this song out on context, I'd never guess that it was Rascal Flatts. This song has a great tempo--not too slow, but not fast, either. It's a great choice to close the album, for sure. I was expecting one of the boys' biographical songs ("Ellsworth" or "Skin (Sarabeth)"), but it's actually a nice and sentimental love song. Exceptionally easy to listen to; very pleasing to the ear. 9/10
Gary, Joe Don, and Jay make an excellent unit. Their harmonies are as strong as ever on this album; it's just a shame that we don't get to hear more of Joe Don or Jay on their own, but their presence is felt on every song and that's fine by me. I tried to be as objective as possible in this review, but it's hard not to gush sometimes. In spite of the decidedly lackluster cover art, I feel like "Rewind" is one of the strongest entries in Rascal Flatt's collection of albums. While not every song on the album is an instant classic, nothing really stands out as a weak link dragging the whole record down with it. I haven't had a chance to listen to the deluxe tracks (since they're only available on the Target deluxe edition), but it seems like they made the right choice with songs to include on the mainstream release.
Overall, I think "Rewind" is a more solid album than "Changed" was, but only time will tell if the appeal lasts. One thing is for sure, though: Rascal Flatts has not even begun to peak, and I for one look forward to any and all future releases.