It's tempting to put in for hazard pay on this one. After all, if it gets too much praise from these quarters, the inevitable crew of metal-up-your-own-ass onionheads will wail and gnash their teeth that it's only because CKY is now a Roadrunner band. And if a discouraging word gets said about "Carver City", we risk an angry, drunken e-jihad from Deron Miller and/or his prepubescent angst-oholic minions. Once more into the breach, with a quick stop for a crash helmet and some asbestos underwear...
Fact of the matter is, I'm a fan of CKY. I like their weird buzzy electronic Intellivision guitar tone, their breathy, treated ALAN PARSONS PROJECT vocals, and their concise, catchy, groovy pop songs. I've liked all their albums, and I didn't see what people's beef was with 2005's "An Answer Can Be Found". And I like "Carver City" just fine, although anyone looking for a triumphant return to form or career-defining statement is likely to be disappointed. Despite a few flourishes and an overall uptick in energy, this is classic CKY, to the point that most of these songs would fit seamlessly on the band's previous albums.
For lack of a better adjective, "Carver City" is the most CKY-ey CKY record yet. A song like "...And She Never Returned" is a delectable feast for anyone into the band's sound, with gooey layers of guitar and sound effects, robot vocals, a stuttering beat and a big bonanza payoff come chorus time. Like all the best cuts from these guys, it's a glittering, plonking slot machine of a song, all flash and dazzle and clang, and there's just enough of it because there's too much of it.
Elsewhere, "Imaginary Threats" dishes up a good chorus stymied by awkward drumming, while "Woe Is Me" gets pensive and awkward, and "The Era of an End" closes things on a maudlin, sappy note. "Rats In the Infirmary" may sport an overwrought chorus, but the song's smooth 80's AOR stylings and laser-guitar soloing put it over the top, while "The Boardwalk Body" stands as "Carver City"'s most poignant, and well-structured, moment. But jeez, listen to "Plagued by Images" or "Karmaworks" and double-check your calendar to make sure you didn't time-warp to 2003 — part of the problem with having such an instantly-identifiable sound, like CKY does, is that if you don't knock a new song out of the park, it sounds exactly like your old songs to the average ear.
Not that that's really even a problem — after all, if you like CKY, you can stand to hear some more songs that follow their shtick to the letter. It's just that after so much time has passed, you expect something that, for good or ill, differentiates itself from the back catalog a little more. By the time the carnival-istic "Old Carver's Bones" appears, and generates mild surprise, the record is almost over. Once the dust has settled, "Carver City" will stand as a good, solid CKY album, definitely enough to tide over the faithful, but perhaps a little too little for its own good — just a couple too many uninspired songs, just a little too stuck in what's becoming a smooth, glossy, velveteen rut for the band. Good, and at times teetering toward greatness, but you get the feeling that CKY's definitive statement is yet to come.