Hawthorne Heights is a band that I only remember getting made fun of going through school. Even back when they were bigger, I always heard them as the punchline of a joke. They always seemed to be a 'guilty pleasure' band, and either you loved them or hated them. Unfortunately, their latest record Zero doesn't really make you feel one way or another towards the band.

The record is pretty well-suited for pop and alternative rock fans alike. There's tons of catchy hooks and melodies that won't just fade away when you listen to it a few times. That said, the rest of the CD has the 'been there, done that,' vibe. There's no new ground ventured into here. I think it's the band's best effort at this point in their career, but it can't compete with other younger bands doing the same type of music. Some of the songs actually reminded me of other bands like this. On the fourth track "Spark," the vocalists' melodies sounded like they were stolen from a The Story So Far song. Some other songs reminded me of Ocean Avenue-era Yellowcard. Although that's not a terrible thing, it'd be nice for a band who's this far in their career to maybe experiment a bit.

Another critique I have about Zero is that it takes a while for the energy to pick up. The first time we really get an energetic performance isn't until the fifth song, which happens to be the title track. Some listeners could be bored by the flow at this point and not give the rest of the record a listen at all. Luckily enough for the band, there aren't really any terrible clunkers on here. There isn't anything I heard that made me hate this album, but there isn't anything I heard that I loved either.

This album is intended to be a concept album. Unfortunately, I don't think it was handled very well in that regard. The story is supposed to "deal with life issues against a dystopian, war-ravaged backdrop." The problem with this is that it's hard to take some of the lyrics seriously. For example, "Darkside" opens with the lines "It's a Friday night in the summertime/I'm in a parking lot, and I've got nothing to lose." In my opinion, it's hard to want to delve into deeper lyrical meanings when it sounds like a 10-year-old wrote the opening lines of that song. And honestly, I didn't enjoy the full of this album enough to bother getting deeper into the concept's story.

Overall, if you're a huge fan of the band or of more recent pop rock/pop punk bands, you might want to check this out. For me though, this was an average record by a band who's still trying to prove their worth after their heyday.