The band’s second studio album shows a lot more promise than Cheshire Cat, their first album. It’s a tighter album overall and just about all of the songs are great. A lot of the unnecessary elements from the first record, such as the awkward jokes and weird skits are toned down on this album. Also, the band has improved as songwriters and musicians here. Dude Ranch is an overall improvement from their first effort.
One thing that’s different about this album is the less significant influence of Punk Rock music. On their previous album, a lot of the songs were straight up Punk Rock influenced with speeding 3-chord guitar rock. While that influence is still here, it’s not as prevalent. Songs like “Enthused” and “Apple Shampoo” have blazing fast guitar riffs and are quick, speedy songs that resemble Punk Rock, but overall the influence doesn’t take over the album. If anything, the band begins experimenting with how they are playing the music. There is actually some thought behind the cool bass lines and kick ass guitar solos. That is to say not every song is loud and fast. There are different paces and styles the band plays around with, such as the country feel found at the beginning of “Dick Lips” or the slow pace that infects “I’m Sorry.” Also, you can really hear each instrument loud and clear on this album allowing the listener to really appreciate what each member brings to the band. This shows growth as musicians, but the band also grows as songwriters as well.
The songs on this album are catchy and easy to sing along with, unlike most of the songs found on their first album. Not only does this make the songs more accessible, it shows the direction they would continue with in their later work. And while there aren’t many joke songs found here their humor is still present in songs like “Degenerate” and “Josie.” And it just works better here. It’s like they found a way to combine their jokes and their music in a way that really works. It’s not awkward or something you would only want to listen to once. While there are jokes to be found here there’s also a serious side to Blink. Though “Lemmings” and “I’m Sorry” may not stand out on the record, they deal with more serious topics. The first deals with growing up and growing apart from your friends, while the latter deals with a relationship falling apart. To really appreciate these songs you have to look at the lyrics. While it’s not a serious as some of their other songs it shows a step towards a more mature Blink. Only problem is this thought goes out the window when the “Dog Lapping” skit follow the last track.
There are some really great songs on this record. The opening track “Pathetic” gets the album started in a burst of energy. The riff is catchy and infectious. It really makes the song stand out. The song also stands out due to Mark and Tom alternating on vocals. It actually works really well. Tom can hit all the high parts, while Mark hits the low ones in an aggressive manner. Another stand out song is “Josie.” Mark’s vocals are spot on, it’s catchy, loud and really makes you want to get up and jump around. Almost all of the songs here are really good, but the biggest problem with some of them is that they start to blend in with other tracks. For example, “Boring” is a short song with a catchy guitar hook and uncomplicated lyrics, but it doesn’t seem to stand out the first time you listen to the album. “Apple Shampoo” is another song on the record that is actually good, but has trouble separating itself from some of the other better songs.
Then there are other songs that are pretty forgettable. One of them is “A New Hope.” It kind of sounds like some of the other songs on the album and it’s also about Star Wars, which I am not fan. As a result, I don’t quite get what’s going on in the song. I think this song would’ve been better off as a b-side, rather than a track on the album. Another forgettable track is the aforementioned “Lemmings.” It’s a decent song, but doesn’t have anything that makes it catchy like the others.
This leads into the biggest weakness of the record: too many songs. There are fifteen tracks in total and this becomes a problem after a while. There are so many songs that some of them start sounding like the others. And with so many songs it’s only natural that some of them are going to be overshadowed by the better songs. Also, it’s easy to tune out half of the album due to how long it is. Maybe if the album had twelve or thirteen tracks this wouldn’t be an issue.
I give this album 8.5/10. It’s a big improvement from their first album and the band has really found a formula for meshing their humor with their music. Some of the songs may be forgettable, but most of the tracks are great even if you have to listen to the album a second or third time to notice it. The songs are catchy, have some great riffs provided by Tom and aggressive vocals by Mark. This album will have you singing along and dancing by the third track. Also, this album is more accessible, so it’s easier for new Blink fans to pick up right away.