Simple Plan’s new release comes with a DVD featuring audio of all the same songs from the album, except you can listen to them on your DVD player while staring at a picture of the band on the screen. I’m still not sure why bands do this, unless there really are thousands of people out there who prefer to listen to music on their DVD player. I guess you could listen to the DVD in 5.1, but I have a feeling Simple Plan in surround sound would be thoroughly disappointing.
One section of this supplementary DVD follows the band through part of its recording process. At one point, legendary producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Our Lady Peace) instructs Pierre Bouvier on his vocals: “If the way to describe the style would be ‘snotty-sounding,’ go maximum snot now… overdo it.” That pretty much sums up the album. It’s chock-full of insanely catchy, singable melodies, but that doesn’t make up for an album full of whiny, overly snotty songs. The album opener, “Shut Up,” is a perfect example. The chorus is teen angst at its most trite: “Shut up, shut up, shut up, don’t want to hear it / Get out, get out, get out, get out of my way / Step up, step up, step up, you’ll never stop me.” Like I said, it’s catchy, but after the second listen, I’d rather Bouvier follow his own advice.
In the band’s first single, “Welcome to My Life,” we hear “You don’t know what it’s like to be like me….” You’re right, I don’t. I’ve never had a multiplatinum debut album (No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls) that put me on the map when before nobody had ever heard of my band. That’s gotta be rough, Pierre. In “Me Against the World” he asks, “Why is everything so hard? / I don’t think I can deal.” Knowing Simple Plan’s rags-to-riches situation makes Still Not Getting Any… even less believable. They never offer a possible answer to their plight either, except that when “I’m so frustrated / I just want to jump.” Apparently leaping in the air repeatedly will take the edge off.
But, I guess I should give the other side of this argument: Though these Canadian pop-punkers are too brooding for their own good, they’re writing for their audience. Who buys these albums? Mostly teens and preteens, and I bet they relate to quite a few of these songs. It doesn’t mean the album is any better, but it does mean they know their audience and cater to them well. Rock also does a great job producing, as he always does. The 11-song, 38-minute album is too formulaic, but sonically perfect.
The album closes with “Untitled,” a piano power ballad, and not a good one. It’s so cliché it hurts: “How could this happen to me?” is the main line of the chorus. I’m not sure, but I don’t want to hear about it anymore, especially after an entire album of whining. One last gripe: The title, Still Not Getting Any…, and the artwork on the album, featuring the band members dressed up as Jackass-style octogenarians, doesn’t fit the tone of this album. This isn’t a playful, “we’re so silly” Blink 182 album. It’s gloom and doom set to happy tunes. It seems as if at the last second, these guys decided they needed to liven up the album with an unoriginal comedic gimmick. “Jump” is the only song that comes close to being playfully childish and stupid. I could have used more of this kind of immaturity.
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.