In our ongoing series, we bring you the albums that you may have missed on their initial release date. This time around, Push To Fire writer Mark Plummer brings you three exceptional pop-punk albums that you need to hear.
By Mark Plummer
You, Me, And Everyone We Know – Party For The Grown and Sexy (2008)
To say that this band and their frontman have had ups and downs, is a major understatement. The fact that they’re still moving in one guise or another is testament to one of their tracks: Livin’ Th’ Dream; but I want to focus on the positives that this release possessed and thrived upon.
Starting from the beginning and Do It Again! has an immediate air of quirkiness surrounding it. Maybe it’s the image of going out for recreational drinks with an obscure family member, but this track certainly doesn’t hold back; it attacks, and it gnaws away at you, before the incendiary Livin’ Th’ Dream.
One of the stand out pieces, it gloriously shines a light on the route through the music industry for any acclaimed individual. Through the use of an illustrative array of metaphors, the subjects point could not be clearer; It’s honesty is stark: “At least 11,000 people think I’m something I’m not”; whilst it showcases admirable persistence: “I want to cheat but I don’t, I want to quit but I wont”; before the chorus intervenes with a bold shout to any doubters: “You can’t afford to live like this, you can’t be dumb enough to dream so big […], no I’m not done yet, you know I’m only getting started”.
To think that this release has peaked early is a massive understatement. It buys time cleverly, and whilst feeling warm and familiar with comparisons to other bands, a unique style is present throughout, enabling this release to stand above any such comparisons. Most impressive are those aforementioned metaphors, they refuse to die down and only go on to emphasise a strong calibre of songwriting, throughout the entirety of this mini album.
Favourite lyrics pop up here and there, wrapping around tongues and encouraging you to join in. Most memorable are those lyrics that flow with neat little lead guitar lines, like in the second verse of The Rent Is Due. As the lyrics work their way through an impeccable verse, a crafty guitar riff adds a sense of wonderment and contributes power; whilst staying light and true to the song all in one.
Closing this affair, is the soft and mellow Carolina Heat, seemingly simple in its process, the bridge that follows the second chorus starts to turn this track into a raucous and infectious sing-a-long; as the vocalist brings this venture to a suitable and tenacious end, there’s no feeling of being short-changed; it’s all satisfaction.
If you’re a fan of music that has the capacity to seem omnipotent, whilst humble in its execution, this could be your new favourite band and release.
The Explosion – Black Tape (2004)
I was originally going to write about their debut ‘Flash Flash Flash’, a brilliant album that anyone, if they claim to like punk, should consider a must hear. However, this album is too close to my heart to ignore. Yes, it’s more commercial than that special debut and it certainly doesn’t hold the same rawness, sounding like a band on a label funded release. But this is still punk/punk-rock, it has a strong bite that, coupled with some fantastically written songs, helps to keep the message of The Explosion first and foremost throughout. Being able to write an album on a label and keep it true to yourself, is no mean feat, many have failed; but with politically infused tracks like Atrocity and No Revolution, this is a powerful punch at the establishment: “All we know is what came before: there’s no revolution anymore”.
Most impressive is the mix between great musicianship, and lyrical tenacity. Punk is too often associated as the three chord bore genre, but sweet little licks and riffs crop up in the likes of I Know and the opening bars of We All Fall Down, that add a lot of credibility to this release.
My personal favourite is Grace: from the tom work through the intro, to the incredibly nifty and beautiful guitar riff that closes the second chorus, it’s a vastly charming track. As if to highlight just how punk these guys still are, my favourite lyric sums it up: “Learners, teachers will provide, their own sweet style of elegant lies”. Coupled with that brilliant guitar riff, it adds another level to what a punk-rock album can be, bleeding well charming whilst carrying the ability to punch your face off; either way you’d still be smiling at the process in which it’s been carried out.
All Time Low – The Party Scene (2005)
I know a fair few die-hard All Time Low fans, and I naïvely fall into the trap of thinking that because they’re “die-hard”, they know that this band existed before they’re incredible ‘So Wrong, It’s Right’ release of ’07. My surprise aside, they did have an album before they hit the big time (a lot of bands do), and here it is. Even if you’re not a fan of All Time Low, I’d reconsider getting a copy of this album, mainly due to it not being the All Time Low you’re familiar with.
Alex Gaskarth’s vocals are almost unrecognisable, incredibly warm and perhaps a tad more restricted in range, but none-the-less fantastic, they certainly go a big step to making this album. From the solo guitar that enters during the second verse, rules the pre-chorus and makes a name for itself right to the end in title track The Party Scene, already there’s an edge-of-your-seat approach; something to keep the excitement flowing from start, through the middle, right to the ending.
If you ever doubted these guys credentials, then Hometown Heroes, National Nobodies should help to reassure. A blistering intro that really shows off the New Found Glory inspirations; the first verse emanates Truth of my Youth through the drum parts and quick guitar work, the most impressive factor is the song structure that seems to throw the handbook out of the window. It’s neatly sewn together, but whilst you wait for a discernible second verse, it’s more a patchwork of elements with blurred lines that smoothly gel it all together.
This is a special album, and I want to say it’s perfect; the darker and moody Break Out! Break Out! followed by the acoustic Running From Lions are an idea of the sort of versatility that this debut album exhibits. Indeed, the aforementioned is particularly poignant; slowing down the pace and giving a new lease of life as this release enters its final quarter. The utterance of “Running from lions never felt like such a mistake” is layered with a second vocal line, and this speaks of a band who are miles ahead in their to write and record a song that speaks on many levels.
This isn’t you’re typical first release that has escaped the mainstream, it’s brimming with diamonds, emeralds and other priceless gems. Saving the best for last, The Girl’s A Straight-up Hustler is the most angst ridden track, and could suitably slot into the Brand New back catalogue of yore, think ‘Your Favorite Weapon, but with more angst and grit.
Whatever these guys are now, this is a remanent of where they were when they started, and it’s an excellent starter in what has turned out to be an illustrious career.