At the end of James Meredino’s 1999 movie SLC Punk the two main characters are sitting in a non-descript suburban basement, Rush’s “The Trees” is playing in the background, the Dungeons and Dragons dice are at the ready, as Steveo and Heroin Bob stand on the precipice of turning away from the prog rock they’ve spent puberty listening to and embracing punk rock. While the merits of i>SLC Punk can be debated, I’ve often wondered how many times this scene has been played out in the real world. There’s a point for every musically inclined kid when a decision is made to cast his or her lot with high-brow technical excellence or rough around the edges emotion. But, of course, it’s not that black and white. It never is. But what happens to the kids who fall in love with their instruments and the in-your-face emotional release that early punk rock and even modern “emo” provides? On Here Comes Everyone Aloha take the technical precision of their odd time signatures, virtuoso playing and love of jazz, tempering the whole mix with a new found dedication to hook and melody. The Cleveland rockers may just be answering the question of what would’ve happened to Steveo and Heroin Bob had they decided to keep listening to Genesis, Rush, and Ginger Baker, while dipping their feet into the simple three-chord barrage of punk.
In 2001, Aloha released their heavily jazz influenced debut That’s Your Fire. In 2002, they released Sugar, which played down the jazz experimentation of its predecessor by focusing on the drama of arena-sized math rock. So Here Comes Everyone‘s continued shift towards traditional rock structures isn’t entirely surprising. It’s not that the band has suddenly started to rely upon basic verse-chorus-verse song structures, but they have found a way to temper their experimentalism with a clever lyric, a simple guitar hook, or a catchy piano run.
Here Comes Everyone has more pop hooks and melody than any of Aloha’s previous releases. Though that’s not to say that the band has left its prog-rock tendencies behind. There are still loads of odd time signatures and a tendency to let songs sprawl across a wide-ranging sonic landscape. And, of course, there’s still that vibraphone poking its head through the mix, making Aloha perhaps the most effective employers of the instrument in a pop context since Tears for Fears’ “Change”.
The album starts out with the pounding rhythms of “All the Wars”. A constant roll of drums ducks into and out of Tony Cavallario’s nippy little guitar riff that itself seems to dance just ahead of a swelling string section.
“You’ve Escaped” moves at a ballad’s pace. A strummed guitar acts as the cushion for T.J. Lipple’s vibraphone, which bounces against a simple piano run and the hiss of a high hat.
Aloha really hit their stride on “Boys in the Bathtub”. The song recalls Supertramp’s Breakfast in America more than anything else. In fact, the Supertramp comparison sheds a lot of light on Aloha’s approach to Here Comes Everyone. No matter how deeply into the prog rock archive you push Supertramp, they were ultimately a very well-versed pop band. Certainly, Here Comes Everyone is nowhere near as “light” as Breakfast in America, and Aloha’s embrace of indie-rock as much as math rock keeps things that way. Vocally Cavallario is at his best as he stretches his aching vocal chords to keep pace with the keyboards and vibraphone that anchor the song. At the song’s break there’s a brief detour into guitar noodling that actually serves the song well when Cavallario returns with the accusation, “you were wrong”.
Most of the songs on Here Comes Everyone move at a shambling pace. This tempo makes sense given the songs’ heavy reliance on keyboards and vibes. The noted exceptions to this are “Goodbye to the Factory” and “Thermostat”. “Thermostat” clocks in at less than three minutes, making it more a traditional pop song than many of the others. “Goodbye to the Factory” sprawls in a way more reminiscent of Aloha’s Sugar, but it’s telling that the song ends the album.
The highlight here is “Perry Como Gold”. The song sounds like a piano-based ballad about summer love, boardwalks, and beaches. But Cavallario’s lyrics tell a far darker tale of heartbreak. Musically the song takes a sinister turn about two-thirds of the way through as a guitar solo rips through the proceedings, the piano gets left briefly left behind, and Cavallario sings, “How was I to know?” It pushes the song dangerously close to pop metal ballad territory, but that’s part of the song’s charm. It’s a perfect example of everything that makes Here Comes Everyone so good.