While the heavy alternative sounds of Tool and Alice in Chains were primary influences on Hoobastank's sound, the post-grunge quartet tempered the gloomier elements of such music with a suburban California groove and an eye for accessibility. Formed in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills in early 1994, the band's earliest members were vocalist Doug Robb and guitarist Dan Estrin, who met each other at a high-school battle of the bands competition. The two chose to join forces, adding bassist Markku Lappalainen and drummer Chris Hesse to form a competent quartet. The self-released, clumsily titled They Sure Don't Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To generated strong local buzz upon its 1998 release, and soon the band had moved from backyard gigs to shows up and down the Cali coast.
Island Records took notice and put Hoobastank on the label's payroll in August 2000, and tours with the like-minded Incubus (to whom the band would be frequently, although not unreasonably, linked) and flavor-of-the-moment Alien Ant Farm followed. Hoobastank's eponymous debut dropped in November 2001, and the singles "Crawling in the Dark" and "Running Away" found a quick home on radio stations and MTV playlists. The LP went gold, and the quartet's subsequent summer jaunt through Asia and Europe pushed it to platinum certification later that year. By early 2003, the band was back in the studio, laying down tracks for its sophomore effort. They then played a few dates in June and July, but were forced to cancel the remainder of the club tour when Estrin was injured in a freak minibike accident. The guitarist was back on his feet by October, and Hoobastank headed out with the All-American Rejects and Ozomatli for the Nokia Unwired tour.
Hoobastank offered the lead single "Out of Control" as a free download from their website before releasing a full-length album, The Reason, at the end of the year. Although it showcased a harder-edged vocal performance from Robb, the album's biggest hit was its title track, an emotive ballad that topped the rock charts and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The Reason went double platinum, and the band used that momentum to issue the Let It Out DVD, a collection of band's music videos, one year later. On a 2005 co-headlining tour with Velvet Revolver, however, Hoobastank received a chilly reception from some audiences, and rumors of a feud between Robb and VR frontman Scott Weiland were soon filling Internet message boards. "If I Were You," the first single from the group's 2006 album Every Man for Himself, addressed the whole affair. Both the song and the album fell quickly from the charts, but Every Man for Himself nevertheless went gold in one month, a feat that likely owed its success to the band's previous album.
A new single ("My Turn") appeared in October 2008, followed by the arrival of Fornever in 2009. That same year, the bandmembers announced that they had begun work on an acoustic album. The result was Is This the Day?, which featured acoustic versions of songs from throughout the band's catalog. The album was released in Korea and Japan in 2010, and saw a stateside release in 2011. Ending its decade-long run at Island Records, the band moved back to indie status with the release of its fifth studio album, Fight or Flight, produced by Gavin Brown, on Open E Records in 2012.
Hoobastank once and forever banished any lingering doubts that they were a bunch of Bonnaroo hippies, à la Ekoostik Hookah, with their 2003 sophomore effort, The Reason, a strident collection of loud, angsty rockers that sounded as if it could have come out in the twilight days of post-grunge in 1997/1998. Not catchy or bratty enough to truly be pigeonholed as punk-pop and way too big and slick to be emo, they were a straight-up, hard-edged alt-rock band, only without any suggestion of being outsiders, either in their sound or intent. They were anthemic, and nowhere more so than on the power ballad title track, which became a smash in 2004, climbing all the way to number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Two years after that, Hoobastank delivered Every Man for Himself, their third album and their first as bona fide rock stars, and it sure sounds like the work of a band that's now established: it's slick and stylish, big and bright, designed for arenas and as bumper music on both MTV and VH1. Bassist Markku Lappalaninen may have left the fold, but his absence is not the reason for the slight changes in their sound; he would not be the one to polish the production, to add the strings, or to add a heavy dose of Franz Ferdinand-styled disco-rock, either. These are all things that the remaining three -- vocalist Douglas Robb, guitarist Dan Estrin, and drummer Chris Hesse -- along with returning producer Howard Benson brought to the table, and the result is a record that sounds a little more colorful and a little more appropriate than its two predecessors, which tended to be slightly monotonous and dull. The proliferation of keyboards, strings, acoustic guitars, and even horns gives this some welcome sonic variety, which helps balance the plodding sincerity of the group's grinding guitars and Robb's ham-fisted lyrics ("I am not the next of them/I am the first of me"). And since Hoobastank is about the overall sound instead of the specifics of the song or performances, it is good that there is more happening on the surface, since it makes the album coherent and easier to digest. But even if Every Man for Himself was constructed with the mainstream in mind, it likely won't win any new converts, since at their core Hoobastank remains unchanged: their songs aren't particularly dynamic or catchy, the band doggedly follows alt-rock conventions as if adherence to clichés gives the group legitimacy, and Robb's pedestrian voice alternately disappears into the mix or veers flat when he holds a note. No matter how flashy their new production is, these are things that are hard to ignore, and they prevent Every Man for Himself from being the kind of mass-audience-consolidating big statement that it was surely intended to be.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The debut album from this California-based quartet is likeable, turn-of-the-century modern rock played with little style, but youthful enthusiasm. Nothing here's gonna change the world, but the fact that these guys don't seem inclined toward filling any agenda or catering to a specific audience is promising. It's no-frills rock & roll with occasional power melodies taking charge.
Words: Michael Gallucci
Released in May 2012, this live album from the post grunge quartet was released exclusively through iTunes – it features 10 songs from the group recorded at The Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. It features fan favourites including ‘The Reason’, ‘You’re the One’ and ‘So Close So Far’
For The Reason, those nice suburban Californians in Hoobastank refine and shade in the concentric circles of their self-titled debut, but stay safely within its platinum figure eight. "Crawling in the Dark" was the contoured heart of that album. Its combination of enormous rock chorus and elastic dreamboat vocals made Hoobastank stars and established their sound -- not original, but firmly rooted in the rousing voice of Doug Robb and guitarist Dan Estrin's slick post-grunge concoctions. Despite the usual pressure to produce another "Crawling," the songwriting duo seems to have largely been left alone for The Reason. Naturally, the presence of boffo big producer Howard Benson ensures the album's impeccable sonic accessibility. Robb's voice breaks at just the right time and for maximum emotional resonance, while the music ebbs and flows effortlessly between aggressive rockers and more introspective material. But for the most part, what you hear is what you get. Strings do pop up on a few songs, and here and there the harmonies seem too rich for reality. But these additional elements never overshadow the foursome's work. The strings punch up "Lucky"'s already uplifting chorus (the acoustic verses are a nice touch, too), while they're a lush bed of down pillows for the somewhat sappy title track. It's not that Robb's words throughout The Reason aren't genuine. Lyrics like "I'm not a perfect person, I never meant to do those things to you," "So what should I do, just lay next to you as though I'm unaffected?," and "There has to be somewhere that we can be safe from the lives we live each day" are delivered with real feeling. However, Hoobastank is still reducing teen angst (over love, escape, or a higher power) to digestible phrases, and writing sandpaper smooth rock symphonies around those couplets. So it's a formula, and one that remains unchanged from the debut. But Robb, Estrin, bassist Markku Lappalainen, and drummer Chris Hesse are a better band now -- endless touring will do that. "Same Direction" and "Just One" are standout anthems, raucous and righteous all at once. Lead single "Out of Control" lets Robb and Estrin shriek and shred with some reckless (yet still melodic and ready for radio) aggression. Meanwhile, the other, softer side of the band is represented best by "What Happened to Us?" and the drifting departure "Disappear," which both unfold as much more focused versions of Hoobastank's sometimes clunky attempts at nuance (think "To Be With You"). In the end, The Reason is really a better version of Hoobastank, written and played by more mature versions of Hoobastank.
Words: Johnny Loftus
If the release of Nirvana's Nevermind in 1991 was where punk rock finally broke into the mainstream of American rock in the form of grunge, Green Day's Dookie in 1994 was the first major salvo for pop-punk, where fast, catchy tunes and choppy guitar figures were fused to sarcastic lyrics about life in the teenage nation. The pop-punk explosion led to a new boom of alternative rock, music a few steps away from old-school punk or grunge and aiming for a new market that had embraced fresher sounds following Nirvana's success. Teenage Dirtbags is a two-disc set that offers up 44 songs from the explosion of pop-punk, ska, and alternative rock hits that came in Green Day's wake. Ranging from the ridiculous ("Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus) to the imaginative ("Buddy Holly" by Weezer), Teenage Dirtbags includes hits from blink-182, Fountains of Wayne, Sugar Ray, Sublime, Queens of the Stone Age, Hole, Andrew W.K., Evanescence, Smash Mouth, Less Than Jake, and many more.
Words: Mark Deming