In our recent interview with Downway’s Dave Pederson, he told us that one of the most important things the band wanted to accomplish with Last Chance for More Regrets is improving on the quality of the recording from their previous work. The album, Downway’s first in some 15 years, easily accomplishes that. The band’s last output, 2003’s split EP with Belvedere, packed a big melodic punch, but as expected, it’s budget production meant that the album, sonically, could see improvement. This new album sounds fantastic but thankfully, doesn’t sound overproduced, and still exhibits one of the most enduring qualities of punk rock production- a genuine tone that the album is made by the musicians playing the instruments.
Last Chance for More Regrets picks up where they Hometown Advantage left off as Downway still write wonderfully melodic, up-tempo punk that takes cues from late 90s pop-punk. It’s the kind of pop-punk that skews more towards skate than pop, with sounds that evoke a little Dynamite Boy, a little Fenix TX, and some Home Grown. So what Downway do best is write skate punk with soaring melodies wrapped in melancholia, and their new album has spades of it. “Part of the Show” and “Wild Ones” are the two best cuts from Last Chance for More Regrets, with the latter being a great example that you can write an uptempo skate punk track without sacrificing urgency for accessibility. If you love melodic pop-punk that doesn’t lean towards bubblegum or the sad, burdensome punk that seems to have become the norm of today, then “Wild Ones” is that wonderful throwback you’ve been yearning for.
“Letters” and “Rebel Ballad” are extensions of the kind of hard-hitting songwriting Downway perfected early in their career, while “Saying Your Name” takes this approach to greater heights. It’s a truly wonderful song, the kind that would have been the ‘single’ contribution to a ton of punk compilations through the 90s. There was always that one song that stood out on indie comps- a shining gem, and “Saying Your Name” exhibits a similar sheen, one that made the $5 you spent on a compilation worth it. Downway stretch their wings a little with the closing, hard rock balladeering of “Last Night’s Makeup”. A little Motley Crue? Sure, why not?
Best of all, there is nothing average about Last Chance for More Regrets, it’s a solid, well-written album. It may not reshape the wheel of melodic punk, but it is a very strong entry into the genre’s canon. It is part throwback to the sound of yesteryear (which deserves a salute in itself), part forward thinking from a band comfortable in their skin, reformed and refreshed, unburdened with trying to be anyone but themselves.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.