Varsity Losers

Last summer, I thought I'd discovered all I really needed to know about the appeal of the All-American Rejects—besides their name, anyway—when I happened to catch the video for their song "Dirty Little Secret." The band performs in front of a wall plastered with post cards that people had submitted to the public art project/Internet website Various people are subsequently shown revealing their scrawled secrets ("I pee in the sink," "I only love two of my three children," "I had gay sex at church camp three times," etc.) to the camera. Intriguing stuff.

But it turns out this was not all I needed to know about the All-American Rejects because I have just learned about their new CD, Move Along, which is filled with music at least as gushingly wonderful as the revelation of anybody's deepest, freakiest secret. The Stillwater, Oklahoma, rock band (best known for the 2003 hit "Swing Swing") still excels at crafting propulsive power-pop tunes filled with youthful exuberance. Yet it's also a more mature effort, with more expansive arrangements that alternately feature a children's choir, theremin, banjo, sitar and string section.

Front man Tyson Ritter no longer yelps as if he were going through puberty right in the studio. His lyrics have gone past the bleeding-heart, crying-on-the-phone stage. And guitarist Nick Wheeler satisfies his Bon Jovi/Peter Frampton jones with some talk-box action on the stomping standout cut, "Night Drive."

Yet if you catch the All-American Rejects at the Orange County Fair, expect to share your space with swooning female fans of the high-school variety ready to scream their lungs out each time Ritter does those breathless, yearning falsetto vocals. If it bugs you, write a post card.

The All-American Rejects with Damone at the Pacific Amphitheatre, 100 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 740-2000; Wed., 7 p.m. $19.99 (includes fair admission). All ages.


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