We’re reaching a point in music discussion where pop-punk is far enough in people’s pasts that we can start talking about it in a critical sense. For someone who was around for pop-punk at its peak but wasn’t a fan of the music (such as myself), this creates a conundrum where one is expected to think and discuss music they never really liked for mostly irrational reasons. Personally, I’m open to old pop-punk bands being a topic of critical re-evaluation; what isn’t appealing to me, though, are more bands taking cues from the mall-punk set. When indie rock starts regarding Blink-182 and old Green Day with a sense of esteem, it makes someone not already a part of the following wonder if that esteem is all misplaced nostalgia or if we’re just going backwards musically. In short, someone like me should fucking hate the So So Glos. Yet, listening to Blowout, I can’t help but think that this quartet from Brooklyn is the first group in a long time to figure out how to do this right.
When working within a genre defined by a somewhat limited musical vocabulary, attitude and posturing go a long way towards making a band stand out, and in this case, the So So Glos are successful. Blowout is filled with tense, nervy energy which carries even some of its weaker songs. Aside from one or two mid-tempo numbers, the So So Glos move through the album at breakneck speed. This is matched with the caffeinated intensity of singer Alex Levine, who spouts acerbic wordplay at every turn. Going off on topics ranging from greedy American malaise to the music industry that passed the So So Glos over in favor of “hipper” artists for five years, Levine’s energy and anger-tinged with a bit of hopefulness-are key to keeping the So So Glos afloat.
This isn’t to say that Levine’s vocals and lyrics are the only good things about Blowout; that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The album has its inconsistencies, though. The first single “Son of An American”, a raucous statement of intent and one of the album’s best songs, is followed by “House of Glass”, the first of a few throwaway tracks that bog the album down. Songs like “Glass” and “Speakeasy” don’t have strong enough melodies to be regarded as anything other than filler on the album, which is a shame.
When the band does hit all the right notes, though, it’s as powerful as any other guitar rock being made today. “Diss Town” rides an unstoppable riff towards an anthemic chorus that rings with far more sincerity than Japandroids’ half-hearted jock rock schtick. “Everything Revival” is even better, perhaps the best pop-punk song to come around in a very, very long time. When things slow down on “All of The Time”, the result is poignant enough that it suggests a life beyond punk for this quartet from Brooklyn, should they decide to go there.
Ragged though it may be, Blowout represents one hell of a coming out party for a band that has been developing a signature sound and a following the old-fashioned way for years. Even if it doesn’t always reach the shaggy peaks of their self-titled album or the Tourism/Terrorism EP (both of which are absolutely worth tracking down and hearing), Blowout is a statement of purpose from a band still doggedly determined to do everything their way. By doing so, they’ve found that there may be some life left in pop-punk after all.
// Notes from the Road
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