n"Secret Weapon", its eighth full-length album, MxPx sticks to its guns-- for the most part. The album overall has a "poppy-er" feel than in the past, but the result of the music doesn't stray too far from the group's roots.
It's amazing that Mike Herrara's voice has barely changed after 13 years as the frontman of punk-rocking MxPx, but safe to say that the consistency of Herrara's voice and the niche that the group's sound has filled has kept the group afloat and allowed the trio to produce accessible punk-rock music (a difficult task) throughout its career.
The lyrics, however, have changed. While the topics of MxPx tracks are generally geared towards the teen-angst crowd, "Secret Weapon" could be the sound track to an assembly on self-esteem at a junior high school. The humor of the early albums and the darker feel of more recent albums are both missing, leaving the album with a cheerful feel -- but also the desire for something more.
There are a few surprises on the album. "Sad Sad Song" is pop-punk meets "That Thing You Do." A track with the name "Punk Rock Celebrity" gets an unexpected boost with horns. The best track, "Drowning", might not come across as a hit, but it combines MxPx's older punk-rock sound with its poppy-er attempt with ease.
Although the album could be characterized as "over-produced," it's difficult to criticize a group for taking advantage of sound-perfecting technology; however, a group that is known for a raw sound - especially in the punk-rock genre -- should be a little more cautious so as not to isolate fans who relate as much to the unprocessed sound of the music as they do to the lyrics.
This is not MxPx's best album but fans will find there are enough so-fast-your-head-can't-keep-up-so-your-body-has -to-do-the-work tracks to make up for the so-so lyrics.