Singer/guitarist Danny Smith grew up in Pickering, Ontario-- one of the industrial suburban towns to which Toronto is but a beacon of lights in the distance-- and likely spent his formative years coming up with any excuse he could to borrow his parents' car and head into the city. Ultimately, he headed even further west to Los Angeles to spearhead another emo/pop-punk band -- this one inspired by "the push behind the hustle of the city" -- completing the lineup with two other suburbanites that had their eyes on those big city lights, Mark Precilla on drums and Scott Waldman on bass. How any sort of "push" or "drive" could be the inspiration towards an album filled with painfully repetitive "woe is me", "the world is ending" sort of stuff is unclear, but the irony of it was not lost on this listener and I always appreciate a good chuckle.
The debut record from The City Drive starts strong; "Undefeated" is an undeniable foot-tapper and will keep bouncing around in your head all day long. The over the top vocals and guitars -- and over the top compression -- produces an upbeat little gem worthy of any West Coast freeway driving. These are certainly not the sonic sounds we're accustomed to hearing from popular producer Chris Fudurich (Sigur Rós, My Morning Jacket, Nada Surf). The band may have the energy to always be moving but, contrary to the promise of this track, they're not in fact moving forward so much as they're just moving back and forth, relentlessly, over the same ground. This is particularly clear once I had slugged it through the first few tracks of the album and everything became a blur. Put on this record and you’ve got some consistently energetic tunes with lead singer Smith already sounding like a star, or at least a great mish-mash of the vocal stylings of every single pop-punk star of recent years. So the band won't get any points in the originality department and the album doesn't offer anything particularly memorable to take away, but there is a genuine energy and enthusiasm here that seems especially rare in music today. Hopefully, that will allow the band the chance to see if they actually can move forward from where they're at and where they're from.