Wow, where do I begin? Little Big Town has been one of my favorite mainstream bands for quite a while. Some of their songs like "Shut Up Train", "Sober", "Little White Church", and "Your Side of The Bed" are some of the best radio singles in recent memory. When their last album, Tornado, dropped, I was nervous going in. The lead single, "Pontoon", was one of the dumbest, most annoying songs I've ever heard. The album ended up being fantastic. This time around, they have an even more annoying lead single, "Day Drinking". I decided to be excited for this one, as the last one was just fine despite the slow start. I was wrong. Pain Killer isn't the worst album I've heard, but it is a significant drop from a band that previously was fantastic.
We've already established that "Day Drinking" is terrible. As if we needed one more dumb party song with annoying gimmicks. That awful whistling makes me turn my radio station faster than a cat on cocaine. There isn't anything worse than that on the album, but there isn't a lot of "wow" moments either. A lot of it is just Little Big Town trying to do their best Fleetwood Mac impersonation. Don't get me wrong, I love Fleetwood Mac. And it may not have been country, but Little Big Town's live cover of "The Chain" that they did last year was fantastic. But, apparently they decided that being Fleetwood Mac cover artists would be better than a country band. "Turn The Lights On", "Save Your Sin", and "Things You Don't Think About" all sound like Fleetwood Mac rejects. They aren't bad songs, but they aren't country and they aren't what Little Big Town has been known for. Their harmony and organic sound gets lost in all the noise. "Tumble an Fall" is another FM wannabe, but its certainly the best one. If this would have been the only song in this style on the album, I'd love it. The problem is, they overdo it. They try to get creative a couple times on the album, and in a few points, it blows up on them. "Stay All Night" starts out with a cool acoustic jam that sounds like it is going to be a killer song, then it morphs into this funky jam session that feels incredibly out of place and weird. "Girl Crush" features a fantastic melody, amazing harmonies, and a nice sparse arrangement. The problem is, the lyrics are very creepy and odd. I don't hate the song, but the idea of a girl being so jealous that another girl has her guy that she begins to fall in love with the other girl is very odd and disturbing. I don't hate the song, and I appreciate the risk of trying something unique, but I think it really backfires here.
This album isn't all bad. "Faster Gun" has lyrics of an old school western with cool effects and arrangements that make it sound like a modern day tale of the Old West. I don't think radio will play it, but it is interesting and different. "Quit Breaking Up With Me" isn't the best song I've ever heard, but compared to the rest of the album it stands out, and it would make an innocent enough radio single that is catchy and enjoyable, if not forgettable. "Pain Killer" has a country-meets-reggae sound that actually works and creates a fun, bouncy song that you can tap your toes to and sing along with. The album's closer "Silver And Gold" features some of that tight harmony and soaring vocals that we know and love from Little Big Town. The best song on this album, however, is the love song "Live Forever". It has a quiet sound, a ton of heart, and the best harmonies on the entire album. It is one of the best songs they have ever done.
I wouldn't call this a bad album, I'd call it a disappointing album. I have stood up for these guys for a long time, and I almost feel betrayed. I think they let the praise of their performance of "The Chain" go to their heads and they tried to repeat that formula one too many times. Either way, there are enough decent songs here to save the album from being a complete flop. "Live Forever" itself is so good that it could carry the entire album. I'm still happy for their Grand Ole Opry membership and wish them the best. Hopefully next time around, Little Big Town remembers their roots and loses some of the Fleetwood Mac vibe.
Standout Tracks: "Live Forever", "Pain Killer", "Faster Gun", "Silver And Gold"