For this disc, multiple producers were used - a step that helps them expand a bit. Not that Rob Cavallo (Who helmed the majority of their previous releases) is bad, but bringing some new ideas to the table when putting the album together never hurts. The opening "Sweetest Lie" hits the ground running with a hook that isn't catchy right away, but manages to push out into the open once the singing starts. It feels a bit jarring as it plays like an attempt to fuse their brash, sludge-heavy past with the pop-rock fusion that is their bread and butter today. It works only somewhat - leaving not a bad song, but an odd one. "As I Am" follows in this trend with a ballad that has some un-sanded rough edges to keep it from being total "AOR light rock" - but still sounds like a good song that isn't sure what it wants to be.
"Home", the album's best track overall, has been criticized for being overproduced. Far from it. It uses a layered approach, but the effect is haunting and fitting for the lyrics. The percussion echoing over the guitar licks opening the song conjures images of the loneliness that swirls through this song's lyrics - like the wondering of "Another night with all my friends / the kind you never see again / I wonder if they'll see through my disguise." It was a great choice for first single, and it works well to show they've still got it - something that's meaningful considering that they've been successful, but never quite repeated the omnipresent super-success they had with "Iris." Coming off this, they channel their inner U2 - but neatly avoid the preachy vibe that creeps into even the best U2 songs. "Notbroken" is a tribute/homage to veterans that is never hit-you-over-the-head obvious - but still manages to get its point across quite well.
Something that sags this album down a bit is 1 of the 2 songs where Takac takes over lead vocals. His tracks on previous albums were guaranteed to be the rabble-rousing stompers, that his voice was (is, really) still best suited for. On this disc he seems to be asleep at the switch a bit - the song is still good, but it reveals weaknesses of his that are non-existent with faster songs. "Say You're Free" fixes that with a typical Takac-helmed stomper that lets him belt it out like he usually does - a definite improvement over "Now I Hear."
A quick look at the track list and seeing "Hey Ya" might lead some to query before hearing it "What, they did an Outkast cover? Huh?!" Thankfully that match made in hell doesn't happen here. What does happen is a classic Goo Goo Dolls love+swoon ballad that, while pleasant, feels a tad too by-the-numbers.
Fortunately, the dirge-like "Soldier" while somber in tone, brings this album to an elegant, classy close. They may not shred like they used to, and this album is at times a bit uneven. Even so, they come one step closer here to finding that happy medium at the intersection of lite rock balladry lane and super-rough-edge road.