Before I go any further, I must be honest with you, dear reader: I am in college, and I am a Good Charlotte fan (subtract 40 scene points). I know I’m too old, but I can’t help it. At the age of fourteen, they won over my heart with their earnestness, their work ethic, and their indisputable adorableness. They dressed kind of punky, played catchy pop rock, owned the stage live, and were incredibly nice people. Their music was always a mixed bag, with genuinely good rock songs like “Motivation Proclamation” and inane yet endearing ditties like “Little Things.” The same can be said of their latest, The Chronicles of Life and Death.
Creating and recording one of the worst songs ever made is truly something to be proud of, despite what others may say. There is a point when a song crosses the line from “Linkin Park bad” to “Safety Dance bad;” the song becomes an enjoyably terrible novelty. Good Charlotte’s “I Just Wanna Live” is one such song. Lyrically insipid, tastelessly tacky, hopelessly out of place, and blatantly unoriginal, you can’t help but dance and sing-along in a silly falsetto voice. Good Charlotte has secured their spot on a future installment of VH1’s Awesomely Bad Songs, and I can only wish for an awesomely bad video.
However Chronicles… holds some of their best work in addition to their worst. First, ignore the puzzling introduction by the Japanese choir, it will only irritate and confuse you. The epic feel the band was trying for is lost in the transition into the title track, a typical but perfected pop rocker. This song, along with the next two “Walk Away (Maybe)” and “S.O.S.” complete the album’s triple attack of powerful pop rock. Good Charlotte is one of the best at what they do; these songs are proof. If you disagree, go listen to some Simple Plan or Never Heard of It. You will come to the same conclusion.
Chronicles… is a step in the right direction career wise, but it shows a conflicted band trying to do too much at once. Experimentation, like the cello on “Predictable,” is incompatible with the poppier tracks. The band falls flat when they try too hard. The vocals on “The Truth” and “We Believe” are strained and sincere, but the lyrics do not match this effort. Lyrics have never been Good Charlotte’s strong point, though they can work well when the rest of the song is simple, catchy, and melodic. This is why they emerge victorious on “The World Is Black” and “Mountain.” An exception is the moody “In This World (Murder),” the greatest departure and the best track on the album. There is more good than bad on Chronicles…, as this band begins to explore the world outside of pop punk. This album shows potential for this band to mature and become more consistent. They have the heart, they just need time.
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.