What is so great about the best pop-punk bands—both in the past and today—is that they are angry, and we know exactly what they’re angry about, even if its a girl in gym class. The problem with Build & Burn, the new album from Fat Wreck’s the Loved Ones, is that there is little in these songs to tell us what, or who, they’re angry at. They scream, their guitars are turned up to eleven and full of crunchy distortion, all that bratty noise is in there. But lyrically, the songs often make no sense. In one song, a man laments driving nails into a bridge we’ve just been told is made of stone. In another, there are bloodstains left behind by sand castles. The confusion in the album’s imagery leaks over into the sound of these songs, and exactly how the band wants to deliver its emotion. The songs rarely take advantage of the energy and speed build into the pop-punk sound and, with the exception of the opener “Pretty Good Year”, they all feel sluggish, a step too slow, and all the screaming in the world can’t pump emotion into slack sounding songs. The anger that should drive these songs feels amorphous and broad, and that lack of precision paints the entire album.
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