Despite the fact that pop-punk is basically the hair-metal of the current era, with near-identical bands popping up like weeds all over the face of radio and TV, I have to say it: I like this stuff. It’s like candy; I just can’t resist it. I even find myself tapping along with Blink-182 when they come on the radio, and I think those guys are only slightly less irritating than Puff Daddy (which is saying something, trust me). And obviously, there’s nothing finer for the long drive home after work than something fast and melodic that I can yell along with in the tape deck; pop-punk fits the bill perfectly. I’m hooked, and in the interest of honest rock journalism, I’ll be a man and own up to it.
The key to dealing with this addiction, I think, is to be a discerning junkie. I don’t like every pop-punk band I hear (thank God, or I’d be even more broke than I am now), and there’re quite a few that I could very willingly never hear again (Lonely Kings, you listening?). Luckily, doing this writing gig gives me ample opportunity to sort the crap from the gold, and every once in a while I happen upon some truly wonderful stuff in the process. Take Somewhere in America, for example, Dynamite Boy’s latest effort—from the first jagged power-chord of “Catching On” (which sounds like Bad Religion did back when they knew how to write a good song) to the closing fury of “Hook, Line and Sinker” (oh yeah, and don’t forget to listen for the super-secret extra cover track), it’s a near-jewel of an album, and I couldn’t bear to take it out of the CD player until I’d heard the whole thing twice.
Sure, the band doesn’t break much new ground, rehashing the same high-school-age subjects every backpack-wearing kid out there knows by heart—girls, friends, being young, growing up, being in love, being out of love, you name it—but they do it frighteningly well, especially considering just how many times the ground’s been trod before. The “whoa-oh-oh"s are right on, the harmony vocals give me chills (especially on the Rentals-like duet chorus of “No Way Out” and “Lullaby,” which I swear sounds like The Outfield on speed), the lyrics get all that teen angst right out there in the open for everybody to get a poke at it, and the guitars sound so crunchy and thick they could be spread on bread. “Kaleidoscope” brings to mind my all-time personal benchmark for pop-punk, Floridians Less Than Jake, while “Little Bobby” wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Green Day album, and the aforementioned “Hook, Line and Sinker” mines a darker, angrier vein yet, almost edging towards Therapy? territory. And it all fits together just like it’s supposed to, rather than sounding like a hodgepodge of styles and influences.
So, is this an all-out recommendation? Truthfully, I guess that depends on whether or not you like this stuff in general—if you reach for the remote the second the latest Green Day video comes on, you’re probably better off leaving this to the kids. But if you’ve got that sick hankering to hear that damn “I guess this is growing up” song for the five-millionth time, well, come join me in the pop-punk closet.
// Notes from the Road
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