The back of a car in the Disneyland car park isn’t the usual place for an acoustic duo to choose to form, so it’s probably a good job they didn’t stick as one. As Barry (Johnson, guitar and vocals) states, “playing loud is just more fun”, so he and Chase Knobbe (guitar) roped in the help of Kurt Walcher (drums) and Matt Ebert (bass) to form the pop-punk four piece. 2011 saw the release of their self-titled debut, and since then they’ve seen the rise to cult admiration.
Each of the ten songs on the album is very noticeably short, never stretching over a couple of minutes. This creates a record which is packed with bullets of sound, never pausing or slowing from the break-neck enthusiasm that each track entails, and each compact song gives chance for another mood to be entertained. The result is a pacey album that begs more listens, but an accessibility that suits even the shortest of attention spans.
The two minute burst, Christmas Card, offers little musical variation from the riffs and melodic vocals that break the album open, and this technique forms a solid opening, drawing attention to any changes that occur throughout. Falling In Love Again settles in with regular chords, before the half sang/half shouted/half spoken vocals combine, softening where the lyrics request it and becoming angsty with uncertainty as the verses take hold. With a attitude akin to Emily’s Army, End Of The Summer ebbs off the anger and brings back the more melodic vocals, merging with a prominent bass line to form a skeletal and stripped back sound.
Victoria makes it as one of my favourites off the album, and one that demands to be seen live, with the chorus being bound to be chanted at gigs. Schley brings back the lyrical focus and underlines the vocals with alternating guitar solos and sound-shattering percussion. This track is bold, one that coupled with the under-your-skin lines, “watch out, you’re in danger”, proves to stick in your mind. The fast instrumental intro of Heart Tattoo, layered with the self-reassuring and repetitive lyrics creates a simple sound that is hard to fault if only for that; among the more built up tracks, this straightforward track is an infectious light relief.
The Jerk brings back the layers of complexity and mixing with anger and determination infiltrating the track. At well under the two minute mark, this is not an anomaly in track length off the record, and reinstates the quick delivery of each track to be a key factor of the pieces. In The Army Now gives way, between the pacey lyrics that open the track, for the attention to shift to the instrumental focus that splits the depth of the track. Penultimate track, Catalina Fight Song, brings in a more definite structure between the vocals and instrumental, and although it slips into sounding over-powered by drums towards its close, the minute long sound is undoubtedly powerful. Closing Heated Swimming Pool is driven by a sound similar to that of The Front Bottoms, and as the album closes in record time, I guarantee you’ll be wishing there was more.
Concentrated energy and emotion swell the tracks to their musical limits; contrasts of simplistic and loud tracks flow to create an album that sound not be broken down, but taken as a whole.