Nostalgia can be an intoxicating thing. Like many long gone bands who have once again donned their guitar straps, Richmond, Virginia punks Fun Size have shelved their hiatus and have released their first album since 1998. For some, the nostalgia and another chance to cash in become the determining factor behind their drive, but for Fun Size, whose genesis as a band was formed when being punk was more about the true freedom of musical expression, Since We Last Spoke is an unbelievable breath of fresh, and familiar, air.
If you’ll let me digress a little; the band’s debut, Pop Secret, was a real gem, an album I found while browsing a Tower Records in Singapore some 15 years ago. Its songs, all rough around the edges and raw, exemplified the youthful unkemptness of 90s punk rock; when the actual songs mattered more than the production value and when bands of this nature wrote songs to play them in front of their friends. Songs like “Pickle” still hold up better than what the majority of what their contemporary counterparts produce (and not surprisingly, the line in the song, “we were here before you were / and we’ll be here after you’re gone”, is apropos in describing Generation Now). When the band signed to Fueled by Ramen for the release of their 1998 album Glad To See You’re Not Dead (this was before Fueled by Ramen started releasing junk), it seemed the band was on the up and up. The material on Glad To See… was a distinct change from Pop Secret. They weren’t afraid to add complexity to their music, forgoing the standard punk rock song writing structure for songs like “Pretentious Porch”. At the time perhaps, it went against what punk was “evolving” into, and not long after, the band called it a day.
Fast forward to 2013 and we’re getting a new Fun Size album that is not only the most polished effort they’ve released, but the most energetic and urgent sounding record they’ve done. “Useless, Useless” is the album’s high gear attitude that revs up Since We Last Spoke, a left hook reminder that the band may have been out of the spotlight, but didn’t lose any of their musical potency. Melodic, fast paced songs about the trials and tribulations of life wrapped in frenetic guitar work (“End of the Road”) and skate punk sensibilities (the terrific “Try Not to Care”), Since We Last Spoke is nostalgic yes, but convincingly new. For fans of 90s melodicore like Good Riddance, and for those who rode the wave that brought Unwritten Law and fellow Virginian’s Ann Beretta to the fold, will find much to like about Fun Size’s return.
It’s been a long time between drinks for Fun Size, and while the new album is more straight forward than their previous efforts, it is their ability to evoke sounds from the last generation of punk that gives Since We Last Spoke a distinct stamp of approval.