On Man of the World, ALO deals with discovering one’s identity, longing and emotional distress. And, the subject matter fits well with the natural need to carve out a distinctive place in the music world. Together, it results in the quartet riding a creative high on much of its latest album. That’s supremely evident with the mesmerizing opening track, “Suspended.” Sounding like the type of song Peter Gabriel would have recorded, the song gains its power from its simmering characteristics. Slowly unfolding, the instruments absently find their footing until they fashion a velvet-cushioned atmospheric backdrop. The intimacy produced by the lack of volume subtly brings a sense of calm and strength to the proceedings, causing me to ignore the noise of life and totally focus my attention. The rest of the album doesn’t live up to such grandiosity, and it would be unimaginable if it had. Surprisingly, producer Jack Johnson, who co-wrote a few tracks and added instrumentation, did not contribute to “I Wanna Feel It” and “Big Appetite” yet both certainly evoke his laidback approach.
What the material contains in hooks (i.e. echoes of Tea Leaf Green on the piano-driven title track) and efficient musicianship, it loses in cohesiveness by abruptly switching from a songwriting style that evokes a trip back to the mid-‘70s, particularly on “Put Away the Past” and “State of Friction,” to a jamming for jamming sake mentality. Inexplicably, it begins at track eight when the album provides a whistle stop for a reggae track (“Time and Heat”). Soon afterwards, the group falls into patented jamband mode with a reliance on groove rather than the inspired songcraft displayed over the previous half hour of music. Both “The Champ” and “I Love Music” certainly have the exuberant flair to make them just what the concertgoer ordered, but they minimize the fact that on the rest of Man of the World ALO demonstrates that it has moved beyond college dorms and keggers.