The Jonas Brothers stretch out into a wide variety of genres here on their fourth studio album and it's all simply too much. The brothers are young as artists and have plenty of musical lessons to learn. One is that sometimes simply less is more. Too often Lines, Vines and Trying Times comes off sounding like an amusement park review show instead of a cohesive album. There are moments where we're reminded what made the Jonas Brothers so exciting on A Little Bit Longer, but they are too few and far between here.
Guess What Instrument Is Next?
On A Little Bit Longer, their last studio album, the Jonas Brothers placed themselves squarely in the power pop corner and they owned the genre. It was an exciting, cohesive work that turned out to be one of the top albums of 2008. "World War III" opens Lines, Vines and Trying Times with big horn sounds that seem like an exciting addition to the previous sound of the Jonas Brothers. Similarly, the single "Paranoid" is a logical and successful development and extension of the Jonas Brothers' approach. However, with the piano, harp and chimes sounds of "Fly With Me," the third song here, we begin an ultimately annoying program of guess which new instruments and even new genre we'll attempt on the next track.
Mastery of a wide range of styles on a single album can work tremendously well in some contexts. Some of pop music's great sprawling works have been approached that way. However, for it to work, there must be a unifying reason for the jump from style to style, and that is missing here. Instead, the Jonas Brothers sound exactly like what I would expect they do not want to be. Too often here they seem like the starring act at a Disney theme park review show.
When It Works
The best moments on Lines, Vines and Trying Times are definitely when it seems someone realized that less is more. Nick Jonas' "Black Keys" begins as a gentle ballad and builds to a very satisfying climax. It is one of the more mature set of lyrics the Jonas Brothers have yet created and should quickly become a favorite in their repertoire. After the parade of fiddles, horns, harps, and even a miscalculated attempt at urban hip hop with Common on "Don't Charge Me for the Crime," the relative simplicity of "Don't Speak" is a breath of fresh air. Throughout the album the Jonas Brothers' strengths of energy, enthusiasm, and musical chops as a trio remain evident. It is just unfortunate to have it buried in moments like the 90's power ballad "Before the Storm" featuring Miley Cyrus and annoyingly cutesy fiddles on "What Did I Do to Your Heart."
Top Tracks on 'Lines, Vines and Trying Times'
- "World War III"
- "Black Keys"
- "Don't Speak"
Hopefully a Minor Detour
Here is hoping that the Jonas Brothers can flush from their systems the notion that they need to master every genre in the pop music playbook and on the next album head back to what they do exceptionally well. Released as a first single, "Paranoid" promised an evolved, more adult sounding approach to pop music. Unfortunately, the rest of Lines, Vines and Trying Times makes the Jonas Brothers sound like naive kids trying out everything they can get their hands on in the studio. The model of the previous album, A Little Bit Longer, was not broken and with a few adjustments here and there it should be one that gets the group through many satisfying years to come.
Released June 2009 by Hollywood Records