Having successfully crafted the pop-punk anthem, Philadelphia-based punk rockers The Loved Ones try out some new threads on their latest effort, Build & Burn. As the title suggests, there is a sense of accomplishment to the idea of creation itself- one that becomes extinct upon its completion, with nothing left to do but to tear it down and start again. It is an ethos perhaps, exemplified by the spirit of more traditional American music: ‘Americana’ in a word. It is no surprise then, that the Loved Ones shred their more pop sensibilities in exchange for a heartfelt dose of the American outback. Their new found terrain is then solidified by their ever-present brand of rock n’ roll; fast-paced guitars, rollicking drum work, and the vocal sneer of great rockers past (one that vocalist Dave Hause emulates to near perfection).

Check in at “The Bridge,” the band’s best effort to date by far- an almost back streets homage to working class existence of struggle, pain, and hardship. The track is surrounded by a healthy helping of up-tempo numbers that gives the album the kind of gate-crashing, no-die mentality you’d like in a rock n’ roll record. Take the woah woah-clad “Sarah’s Game” and the positively bouncy opening of “Pretty Good Year,” as examples of the band’s ability to meld genres together almost seamlessly. If however there was a song on Build & Burn that would best exemplify the Loved Ones’ new Americana tone, it would have to be “Selfish Masquerade.” Its melancholic, downtrodden outlook is very much akin to the beaten, self-degrading nature of some of America’s most heartbroken cowboys, and it seems the song (mid-tempo riffs, beautifully strewn chorus and all) has managed to crunch this sentimentality down to a very succinct 4 minutes. And if there were any doubt of just what the band is about these days, look no further than the honky-tonk attitude of “Louisiana” (with its references to Biloxi, Alabama et al)- if it doesn’t get the giddyup in you going, then nothing will.

While the seemingly dusty visage the album paints isn’t exactly “Born to Run” (or “Jack & Diane” for that matter), it’s a great example of a band extending past their initial boundaries and finding new ground to grow on. There is still a distinct punk ring to it all, and it never quite throws you out on a highway somewhere with nothing but the clothes on your back and a guitar, but it does get you as far as the on-ramp. The Loved Ones haven’t quite written a classic yet, but they’re getting pretty damn close.

(Fat Wreck Chords)

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