Friday, July 31, 2009

I’ll Pop Your Punk

I love Pop-Punk almost as much as metal and although I used to be ashamed of it like it was a bad habit, I have come to terms with it and feel no shame. As I stated in another entry, it is ridiculous to be ashamed of what music you dig and you should be proud of whatever tastes you have. For me Pop-Punk was the first genre that truly captivated me when I was in about 6th grade and listened to Blink 182’s Enema of the State while playing N64 at a friend’s house. I’d never heard anything quite so catchy, fast and uplifting so I immediately became a huge Blink fan, listening to all their albums over and over. Eventually I discovered many other Pop-Punk bands and began attending shows where I got my ass handed to me in mosh pits but loved every minute. The simplicity of so-called power chords and the up-tempo drumming perfectly complement the emphasis on melody rich vocals and teen angst lyrics. During high school I went through phases where I thought only heavy metal was worth listening to but these periods were brief and I always returned to Pop-Punk if not for nostalgia, for its contrast to Metalcore. While metal is dark, dense, more intense and certainly more complicated, I love Pop-Punk for its simplicity, the uplifting tempo and of course the clean and corny vocals. Today I will be discussing one of my long-time favorite pop-punk bands as well as two more that I have more recently discovered and thoroughly enjoy.

New Found Glory has been in the pantheon of Pop-Punk gods for almost as long as Blink 182 and after a friend burned me their album in like 8th grade I became addicted. Although many people dislike them because of Jordan Pundik’s “whiny” vocals, I think he is a great vocalist and the lyrics are so cheesy that I have to love it. They definitely helped me get through some of that delicious teenage angst that most people felt during their first rocky relationships. I was worried about this band after Coming Home came out because a lot of people disliked its more mellow style and almost melancholy tone (similar to Blink 182’s self-titled album). I dug it but I often listened to it at night to help me sleep, which is not when I listen to the rest of their discography that is mainly upbeat. They came out with a split album last year that included the band switching instruments and calling themselves International Superheroes of Hardcore paying homage to hardcore punk rock. I enjoyed this album but the latest record really blows it out of the water and shows that NFG isn’t leaving the music scene anytime soon. Not Without a Fight is most similar to Sticks and Stones, which was an amazing album, but their hardcore punk influence is much more apparent. They even went on a tour entitled Softcore, which references their style that contains some hXc rhythms but the vocals tend to remains very much Pop-Punk. The lyrics are as cheesy as ever but extremely catchy and I think the guitar work is some of their best yet due to the bouncy and skank pit sound that would surely make a crowd airborne. I really like most of the songs, even the slower debbie downer tracks and this can definitely be considered a return to form. Stand out tracks are Listen To Your Friends, Don’t Let Her Pull You Down, Such A Mess.

Dillinger Four is very different from NFG especially in their approach to vocals and their more classic punk rock sound and vibe. Their early recordings are borderline grungy and sound like they were recorded inside of a dumpster in someone’s garage, but that is what I love about them. The vocals are extremely raspy (2 packs a day status) and their two vocalists generally alternate on who sings and writes the songs, similar to the standard Blink 182 formula. However, their vocals and lyrics are much more punk than pop-punk meaning that they deal with anti-system themes, politics and general motivational anthems. Yet sometimes they do throw in some sadder girl problem songs as well as great odes to drinking. I also like how they often throw in random sound samples from really old tv, documentary and movie clips which create an interesting punk vibe from the start. The guitar is perfectly pop-punk with very simple power chords that are catchy as hell. The latest album, C I V I L W A R, contains constantly upbeat drumming and low-volume vocals but is much better produced and engineered. They still have that grungy garage punk sound but you can actually make out the vocals and I think they accidently got better at singing. Most punk fans have hailed it as their best effort so far and I have to agree. I’ve listened to the album dozens of times and I’m still not tired of it, getting totally amped every time that I throw it on. Anyone who digs punk rock or thinks that it has died must listen to this band, as they are very impressive and refreshing.

The Loved Ones on the other hand are different from D4 and NFG in their stylistic approach. Not only do they lean more towards the alternative rock side of punk but they also have a noticeable southern twang. They are based out of Philly and their frontman and guitarist actually used to be in the amazing hardcore band Paint It Black. It is interesting because aside from the fast rhythms on their debut album, Keep Your Heart, I don’t hear much of a hardcore punk influence. Their latest LP, Build & Burn is the record where they really find their original sound that contains both an alternative vibe as well as a pop-punk tone that can be embraced by fans of both genres. I think they have an interesting approach and a pretty original sound which is why I decided to recommended them to all you punkers out there. The lyrics are generally about relationships but also contain some nice life lesson themes that can be quite motivational. Fat Mike actually signed them to his label, Fat Wreck Chords, after seeing them live and has become good friends with them all, even referencing them on NOFX’s latest album Coaster. This is definitely a band to pay attention to and they might even get big someday due to their dedication and passion to stay original. They are the least well known of the three bands but have gained a lot of attention on, which I follow but disagree with a lot of the people who post and review. I think Build & Burn and the latest EP are worth checking out if you dig punk that is more on the alternative side, sometimes I think they should just be called a rock band and drop any commitment to a particular genre. Please check them out because you will probably dig their interesting sound and vibe.

Yet again, I chose three winning records so all are certified Nasty! New Found Glory receives a 9/10 for an incredible return to form, Dillinger Four gets a 10/10 for being their best effort yet and for being my favorite punk album of last year, finally The Loved Ones get an 8.5 for their original sound and passion. Non-Metal Moment: Check out Bela Fleck and the Fleckstones really interesting eclectic style of bluegrass, fusion and jazz. I have never heard anything like them but they are really awesome for anyone open-minded to great music.

1 comment:

  1. Yo dude, I've got an idea for your site. You sould try putting hyperlinks on the band names you mention, so if someone doesn't know what the band you're reviewing sounds like, they can click the link and go to their myspace or some site where they can here some tracks