It's strange to hear diehards grumbling about The Promise Ring's change of direction on its new album Very Emergency. The word "sellout" has even been bandied about, which is kind of puzzling; can you sell out when you make albums for Jade Tree Records? The reason for the outcry seems to revolve around the way Very Emergency overtly strays from the band's roots as perhaps the prototypical "emo-rock" band. A slick, strangely detached pop-rock record in a genre that's fairly rigid in its conformity to passionate vocals and jagged guitars, Very Emergency is a far cry from its more intense predecessor, 1997's Nothing Feels Good. Which is fine: The Promise Ring certainly isn't contractually obligated to make the same great record over and over—it's not on a major label, remember?—and its approach to big, catchy pop is admirable. The problem is more with spotty execution than faulty goals. "Emergency! Emergency!" has a mile-wide chorus that's hard to resist, "Happy Hour" is a great rock anthem, and "Skips A Beat (Over You)" is cheesy in the best possible way. But too much of Very Emergency's scant 35-minute running time is dragged down by plodding, overlong misfires ("All Of My Everythings," "Things Just Getting Good") and awkward, feel-good fluff ("Happiness Is All The Rage"). The Promise Ring is free to do whatever it wants, but when it only puts 10 songs on a record, it might want to pursue consistency more rigorously.