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We The Kings make a go at the pop/rock throne with latest decree 'Smile Kid'



We the Kings with Mayday Parade, A Rocket to the Moon and There for Tomorrow
6:30 p.m. Monday
Diamond Ballroom
8001 S. Eastern
$16 advance, $19door

While the media fuels the furor over sexting and fears of rampant teenage promiscuity, ample evidence remains that innocence isn't lost, and that youthful existence is still a lot more "Pretty in Pink" than "Kids."

With its anxious, pining love songs; sweet, hopeful sentiments; and odes of wistful anticipation, We the Kings are like a power-pop answer to Duckie: earnest and romantic with an impressive dash of personal style.

Whether tossing rocks at the window of a forbidden love ("Check Yes Juliet") or dreaming of navigating the heavens hand in hand ("Promise the Stars"), the Florida quartet taps a gentle, starry-eyed attitude designed for amorous, youthful mix CDs and lovelorn soundtracks. Although romance is still at the center of its new album, December's "Smile Kid," for 24-year-old front man Travis Clark, the release is more fantasy than autobiography " for the moment.

"For this record, it's been more about the idea of that someone special," Clark said. "Even if you haven't found that someone, you're constantly dreaming that someone is out there."

He plays guitar and piano for the band, with recent emphasis on the latter. Keyboards plume all over "Smile Kid," as We the Kings add layers of sound to make the big tuneful tracks even more irrepressible.

"I just kind of locked myself in the studio and was like, 'Let's put bells and whistles, and put on strings, Rhodes and different-sounding pianos and organs " all this stuff," Clark said. Whereas on its self-titled 2007 debut, he had transposed songs written on piano over to guitar, for "Smile Kid," he made the piano more of a centerpiece, resulting in a boisterous energy.

Sam Hollander and Dave Katz " aka S*A*M* & Sluggo " who helped score hits for Boys Like Girls, Gym Class Heroes, Katy Perry and All Time Low, produced both of the band's albums. Because they did such a good job helping the group "flesh out" its debut, the musicians were eager to work with them again. This time, things went a lot smoother, Clark said.

One reason "Smile Kid" represents such an advance over the debut is that Clark never stopped writing. He maintained creative momentum by writing in hotel rooms and the back of a tour bus, poring over and polishing the material for nearly the entire time between records.

He's come a long way since deciding in middle school, after a Blink-182/Jimmy Eat World/Green Day concert, that rather than be a singer/songwriter, he wanted to be in a band. Clark recruited his best friends, and now the group is poised on the brink of mainstream success.

"I can't wait to see where we are a year form now, five years from now, 10 years from now," he said. It's been such a roller coaster." "Chris Parker

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