To echo the infamous words of Greil Marcus, what is this shit? It is not everyday that an album can elicit genuine feelings of pain in me, but with the self-titled record from one-time neo-soul group Fitz and the Tantrums, I have been reminded that the feeling is possible. This LP is truly a grueling exercise in patience, especially for someone who has been a fan since the band's occasionally thrilling 2010 debut, Pickin' Up The Pieces.

Whereas the dangerously catchy tracks of that record were built on the back of a homespun soul sound -- vintage organs, saxophones and a purposeful aversion to more modern instrumentation -- Fitz and the Tantrums sounds as though its songs were crafted in a lab by scientists striving to make perfect commercial-ready pop. If this was the goal, then the band has already succeeded as lead single 'HandClap' has already found its way into TV adverts (I had predicted it would be for cell phones; it turns out it was for cars).

Each and every track on this album is so jam-packed with garbage pop flourishes that it can get exhausting. Most songs, like 'Roll Up' and 'Run It,' waste no time in proving that they are nothing but fodder designed purely for Top 40 radio. The banal lyrics ("It's complicated / when we get naked / but I can take it / I love to hate it babe, I can't say no"), the absolute absence of unique melodies, the soulless drums: it is all thrown at the listener in spades. But even more frustrating is when Fitz and the Tantrums waste a moment of promise. The delicate intro of 'Burn It Down' makes it a whole 30 seconds before devolving into sterile nonsense designed to earn millions of listens without igniting a single damn spark of fun.

I tried listening to this record in as many different ways as possible -- sitting, standing, running, dancing, brain turned on, brain turned off. No mode of listening could redeem the fact that this album is just bad.

What happened here? It is no secret that Fitz and the Tantrums had larger pop aspirations. 2013's More Than Just A Dream was a breakout mainstream success that eschewed the band's original soul sound significantly by introducing more conventional pop formulas, but the passion was still there. When lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick sang, "From time to time I pinch myself / because I think my girl mistakes me for somebody else" on 'Out Of My League,' you could almost believe him. It was a record that bridged the band's soul roots and pop ideations with maximum efficiency. It felt polished and radio-ready, but still alive and interesting. It did not exactly win critical acclaim, but the record brought in a lot of new listeners, while singles like 'The Walker' dominated commercials, film trailers and more.

In the intervening years, it would seem Fitz and the Tantrums have become focused on replicating this form of success rather than pushing themselves in interesting musical directions. Instead, they sound more like a group of out-of-touch, middle-aged adults doing their best impression of the bland pop standards that dominate the top of the charts.

This is where I would have liked to say that there is a concession to be made, that there is a redeemable track on Fitz and the Tantrums that indicates all is not lost. Sadly, there is no such concession to be made. The synth line and vocals on 'Get Right Back' are okay, I suppose? That's the best I can do. Maybe somebody can find something to like here. But if no person can, some company looking for a little ditty to soundtrack their latest bullshit product surely will. I would say better luck next time, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to hear a next time.