Cali Power-Ballad Philosophers Hit Big With Critique of Pure Reason


In The New Yorker last month, Sasha Frere-Jones called SoCal alt-brutes Hoobastank’s hugely popular power ballad “The Reason” “your fifteenth high-school reunion compressed into four minutes.” Totally, but he forgot to mention how true that especially is if your name is Romy or Michele. The tune’s one of the few to take away a useful lesson from all those ’80s-vintage hair-metal Behind the Musics; it’s slow but steady, splashy but tight, manly but pretty. And in his diphthong-rich lyric, singer Doug Robb offers the kind of tender self-affirmation reunion-goers—especially ones with new hair and no braces—use to pump themselves up in banquet-hall bathrooms: “I’ve found a reason for me to change who I used to be,” he sings with wads of salty Kleenex in his throat. “What Happened to Us,” a less elegant piece of quiet-then-loud that actually precedes title track “The Reason” on the band’s second album, furnishes the karma-balancing physiological revenge crucial to the completion of any extreme makeover. “We used to be so perfect,” Robb laments on behalf of the mean girls who won’t believe how skinny he’s gotten since graduation. “Now we’re lost and lonely.”