The Lumineers Return To South Africa In 2017 In Support Of New Album

South Africa has seen its fair share of folk-rock artists in the past year with Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men both selling out their respective shows. 2017 shall see yet another folk-rock artist head to our shores with The Lumineers returning to South Africa in support of their sophomore album CleopatraThe Lumineers were last here in 2014 and completely blew us away with their delicate yet update folk-rock sound. 2017 shall see them returning with a much darker and provocative sound as their new songs have pushed them into an alternative rock direction tempered by the initial whimsy of their debut album.

Some people may ask why Big Concerts has decided to bring The Lumineers to South Africa when it was very recently that Seed Experiences brought them to South Africa? Well, it makes sense considering that it is an album tour in support of their latest album, but I think the reason goes a bit deeper than that. This year has proven that South Africa wants to see these modern folk-rock bands based on how successful Hilltop Live was with Mumford and Sons and furthermore how successful Seed Experiences was with Of Monsters and Men. The logical move for Big Concerts would be to follow up on this success and capitalise on it with another equally popular folk-rock band. Sure, it may ignore the current trends in the global and local market with regards to the artists people want to see such as Blink 182, Green Day Kendrick Lamar, Pearl Jam, Twenty One Pilots, and variety of others, but at least they haven’t gone and bought in 30 Seconds to Mars for the fourth time. All in all, The Lumineers are a solid choice to bring it as a buffer between major acts and based on previous performances – they won’t disappoint.

Tickets go on sale on Friday 9th September at 9am via  www.bigconcerts.com and Computicket. The Lumineers shall be performing in Cape Town on 26th April 2017 at Green Point Park and 28th April 2017 at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg.

Tour Information:

Cape Town

Wednesday 26th April 2017

Green Point Park, Cape Town

Ticket Price: R630

Johannesburg

Friday 28th April 2017

The Dome, Johannesburg

Ticket Price:  R405 – R745

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Good Charlotte – Youth Authority

2014 saw Joel and Benji Madden release their pop-drenched debut solo album. This practically rang the death knell for Good Charlotte. Cardiology, their 2010 studio album, was a disappointing collection of pop rock jingles and vague attempts at pandering to the clichéd rebellion of suburban white girls. The pop punk game started to fill-up with younger, more angst-ridden acts that drew heavy influence from the emo revival that started to fascinate the youth of America, and eventually the world. Good Charlotte’s eventual silence was taken to mean that yet another elder statesman of the genre had finally decided to call it quits and leave the genre in the hands of incredibly capable youths.

2016 seems to be a year in which the elder statesmen of pop punk have decided to return to making music. Blink 182 is leading the pack with the release of California­ – their post-Tom DeLonge comeback album which saw them debuting at number 1 of the Billboard Top 200. Sum 41 have also emerged from the woodwork with a promising new album being released in October. Good Charlotte, on the other hand, made a rather lacklustre comeback with Youth Authority but have managed to produce an album that is infinitely superior to 2010’s Cardiology.

The album opens on a rather promising note with “Life Changes” – a veritable middle-aged pop punk anthem. Joel angrily barks out lyrics about surviving within the “fast line”. It is a partial commentary on how far the brothers have come since their teenage years in which their father abandoned them and their mother battled with lupus. The band emerged into a scene dominated by wealthy middle-class bands rebelling against suburbia yet managed to quickly take control of a large chunk of the market. This is what Good Charlotte are singing about on “Life Changes” midst its palm-muted guitar riffs, singalong choruses and general pop-punk energy.

The album takes a quick plunge towards being atrocious with “40 oz Dream” – a cheap, cheesy attempt at pandering towards 90s nostalgia complete with hand clamps, weak rhyme schemes and bitter cynicism regarding the supposedly “atrocious” state of modern music. It creates the notion that the only music that is good is music from the 90s and inspired by the 90s – a laughable statement when looking at the fact that most of Youth Authority is based on generic mid-2000s pop punk. Youth Authority continues its spiral into monotony and general awfulness with the mid-section of the album solely dedicated to slow ballads. Ballads were never Good Charlotte’s strong points and they need to rope in Kellin Quinn (of Sleeping With Sirens) and Simon Neil (of Biffy Clyro) to turn them into passable attempts at sounding remotely good. These ballads ruin the mid-section of the album, but likely the latter end of the album is filled with riff-heavy and bouncy pop punk.

“The Outfield” follows after a brief interlude that catapults Good Charlotte back into the prime with steadily constructed four-chord riffs that once again pay tribute to their past and how they overcome their circumstances. The album does lean heavily on the theme of memory and nostalgia, which is understandable when Good Charlotte can’t really use their middle-aged lifestyles to relate to youthful demographic that would be picking up their album. However, Good Charlotte does channel much of their initial energy with “The Outfield” and deliver a top-notch pop punk song that sees them returning to the original form with chunky guitar riffs, clean guitar tones, hands-in-the-air chorus, and bouncy percussion. “War” is another song that closes off the album on a high note with its restrained screams backing Joel’s chorus and its cycling between acoustic guitar riffs and massive stadium-rock guitar riffs that propel the song to be an alternative rock classic.

All-in-all, Youth Authority is a semi-decent comeback album that is likely to please the fans of the band but it won’t do much to bring them new fans. If anything, it maintains their relevance to the scene without drawing much attention away from the younger bands doing truly innovative stuff. At least we get a new Green Day single soon.

5.5/10

 

Album Review: Blink 182 – California

“There is a cynical feeling saying I should give up” is the lyric that opens California Blink 182’s seventh studio and first since Tom DeLonge made an untimely and rather messy departure from the band. It drips with self-doubt and reflects, to some extent, the state of mind that the band must have been in when heading into the studio to record this album. However, “Cynical” quickly veers sharply away from the ballad-style melody that gives the song its gloomy intro and launches into a blistering piece of pop punk with Blink 182’s signature guitar riffs and Travis Barkers frantic and precise drumming. The lyric of “what’s the point of saying sorry now / lost my voice while fighting my way out” closes off “Cynical” – giving the song a rather spiteful and sneering tone. It is Blink 182 confidently claiming that they don’t need DeLonge to be Blink 182 – and California seems to support that statement.

There was a lot of anxiety that surfaced when Blink 182 announced that Matt Skiba, the frontman for emo-meets-punk outfit Alkaline Trio, would be replacing DeLonge. For many, DeLonge and his garish nasal drawls were a vital part of Blink 182’s sound – nasal drawls that only ever really featured on their self-titled album and ones that turned Neighbourhood into an anxiety-ridden train wreck that saw Mark Hoppus and DeLonge creatively opposing each other in every single way possible. This didn’t stop people from criticising the addition of Skiba, but criticism quickly faded away when lead single “Bored To Death” was released. Hoppus and Skiba share vocal duties on this particular song and many others on the album, but this was the first that displayed a new dynamic to Blink 182’s sound. Hoppus and Skiba share similar vocal tones, but they are easily told apart as Skiba has a much rough and smokier quality to his vocals while Hoppus fully embraces the vocal style that made +44’s debut a signature piece of mid-2000s emo.  “Bored To Death” comes off as a much more energetic version of +44 tempered by Blink 182’s fondness for massive singalong choruses. To some extent, the song seems to suggest that the band is pretty annoyed with the drama surrounding DeLonge’s departure but that they are also tired of people constantly insisting that they should return to their earlier sound.

This is where California is interesting as it pretty much opens on this idea that the band are frustrated with people asking them to return to albums like of  Enema of the State or Dude Ranch – albums where they were much younger and didn’t have families to look after and children to raise. However, as you work through the album – you can see noticeable attempt to recapture the energy and magic that turned Blink 182 into hulking pop-punk legends. “She’s Out of Her Mind” seems to loosely draw on influences from “The Rock Show” and “Stay Together For The Kids”. This makes perfect sense. These are songs that defined Blink 182’s sound and career – songs that can be played at an Emo Night and people will belt them right back at the DJ. Recapturing the energy, and emotion, that was present on these songs and others from the same time period is exactly what fans wanted from the new Blink 182 album, but there is a degree of maturity present in the delivery of these songs. It is tempered by the realisation that the members are dads and can’t be sprouting dick jokes every 20 seconds or singing about divorce and having sex at rock shows. Thus,California is tempered by a dad-like sense of maturity – the kind that allows for moments of immaturity such as on “Built This Pool” or “Brohemian Rhapsody” – short-lived bursts of noticeably punk rock energy combined with lyrics dumber than Donald Trump’s hair.

However, even with these throw-away joke songs – California is a mature effort at the best of times. “Los Angeles”, with its nu-metal styled bass riffs and hip-hop influenced drum work which point towards Barker’s involvement in the hip hop scene, drips with lyrical maturity and a kind of punk attitude. It puts me in mind of 30 Seconds to Mar’s “City Of Angels” – Jared Leto’s love song for Los Angeles. Except, Blink 182 writes more of a hate-song for Los Angeles. It is fuelled by the desire to point out much of LA’s flaws while clinging to the ability to be radio-friendly enough to be cast as a single. It is also a song that shows just how easily it could have been ruined with DeLonge on vocals especially for the drawn-out notes in the chorus.

“Sober” is the embodiment of modern pop punk. It also happens to give some indication of the role that John Feldman played in creating the album. Piano melodies, half-time handclaps and “nanana’s” are tossed about the song like hand grenades in a Call of Duty free-for-all. It turns “Sober” into a song that 5 Seconds of Summer could have written, but it is saved by the old-school pop punk energy that Blink 182 exudes on the song. Hoppus’s bass riffs are chunky bursts of swaggering energy and Skiba thunders out the gate with hook-laden guitar riffs to accompany Barker’s almost ferocious drum work. It may be the weakest song on the album, but that is by no means an insult as it is still an incredible song that sees Blink 182 fusing modern pop punk influences with their gritty and less production-heavy sound.

“No Future” is yet another dollop of maturity tempered by the youthful energy off pop punk. It is a song that highlights the vocal abilities of Hoppus as he sings about creating a career in music and rebelling against that statement of “are you really going to make money from music?” The song is a clear middle finger to the statement as it cycles between soaring melodies and frenzied bursts of drums and guitar. It is a song that highlights the amazing dynamic between Skiba and Hoppus as it fades from gang vocals the chorus to Skiba’s chills-inducing vocal bridge that sees him unleashing the full range of his vocals. “Home Is Such A Lonely Place” is the token semi-acoustic love-ballad that has to present on every Blink 182 album. Melancholic synths curl themselves around delicate acoustic chords as Hoppus and Skiba dramatically sigh about losing someone they love. It is a refrain from the energy of the rest of the album that is broken by the ode to punk rock that is “Kings of the Weekend”. Gritty bass riffs give the song a mean-sounding intro before exploding into a frenzy of guitar and catchy hooks as Hoppus sings “thank god for punk rock bands”. It is a song that looks on the youthful search for music through the lens of adulthood and drips with gratitude for the bands that would ultimately allow for Blink 182 to come into existence. It is strange to see a band like Blink 182, at this point in their career, paying homage to other bands for influencing them, but it is also endearing to see Blink 182, who spawned an entire generation of pop punk, acknowledging that they also started out as kids attending punk shows.

“Teenage Satellites” is another foray into combining modern pop punk with old school pop punk, but with less of the pop punk gimmicks beside the necessary “woah-oh” and handclaps. It doesn’t really add anything unique to the album but it serves a necessary purpose of being a catchy and infectious song that sets the listener up for a series of songs that delve into darker lyrical and musical territories. “Left Alone” is a vague stab at the energetic side of Neighbourhood, but that façade quickly drops when the chorus kicks in along with snarling guitar hooks, up-tempo drum work and simultaneous vocals by Hoppus and Skiba. It is a throw-back to the mixture of energy and melancholy that came with songs on the self-titled album. There are moments of refrain that are quickly whipped into a frenzy by the rest of the song and there is something glorious in that. It harks back to a time where Blink 182 were in an almost similar emotional place after the first hiatus and projected the emotion and frustration that felt during that hiatus onto notions of romance and loss within romance.

“Rabbit Hole” is the dark, snarling side of Neighbourhood. It is everything the album should have been but could not have been due to DeLonge’s desire to make a sappy emotionally stunted album. Hoppus and Skiba deal with issues surrounding anxiety and mental illness in this particular song, but it is Hoppus that turns this song into a means by which he can deal with some personal demons. In a way, he confronts the problems that DeLonge’s departure must have created and cuts himself off from the toxicity of DeLonge’s departure by proudly stating “I won’t fall down that fucking rabbit hole”. The album immediately transitions into “San Diego” – the song written about DeLonge and the bond that Hoppus had with DeLonge with regards to their roots in San Diego. It reflects a mindset in which Hoppus was and is clearly still dealing with DeLonge’s departure and perhaps even clinging to the hope that he and DeLonge may be able to rekindle their friendship, but he still acknowledges the damage that DeLonge did in the wake of his departure. It is an emotionally charged and tragic song and is possibly one of the most powerful songs on the album. So much so that the band needed to follow it up with a throwback to the earlier days of Blink 182 with “The Only Thing That Matters” – a song that would be perfect on an Alkaline Trio/Blink 182 split. It is a high-octane piece of pop punk frenzy that really sees Blink 182 returning to their roots. Bringing up the rear of the album is the title track “California” – a slow yet melodic song that sneers about the idyllic Californian lifestyle and, to some extent, mocks the state and its overbearing celebrity status.

At the end of the day, California is a 16 song album that clocks in at just over 40 minutes but manages to capture everything great about Blink 182 while still reflecting their new-found maturity. It reinvents modern pop punk and confirms the band’s relevancy to the genre while still being a piece of pop punk gold. Album of the year, for sure.

9/10

 

Blink 182 Release New Song “Built This Pool”

This just in – California, Blink 182’s soon to be released comeback album, is going to be one of the greatest pop punk albums of this decade. Clocking in at a meagre 15 seconds, Blink 182 hark back to the days when they sang about anally penetrating a dog as Mark Hoppus sings “I wanna see some naked dudes, that’s why I built this pool”. It is a simple, high-energy pop-punk song that does not pretend to be serious but rather embraces its frivolous and nonsensical roots. Listen to the song below (it can also be download for free on their website) and pre-order California as soon as possible – it is going to be great.

LISTEN: Blink-182 “Bored to Death”

Blink-182’s “Bored to Death” is, without a doubt, a time machine to being a teenager for me, you would never think the guys have taken such a huge break and replaced Tom DeLonge with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. Continue reading LISTEN: Blink-182 “Bored to Death”

ALBUM REVIEW: Simple Plan – Taking One For The Team

Pop punk is littered with tombstones dedicated to bands that released platinum records and went on to experience the giddying highs of mainstream success.  Sum 41, My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte, Blink 182, Green Day… they are all memorials to careers that nosedived into flaming rules after the bands stood too long dominating the popular charts. Sure. Blink 182 may be recording a new album but last year’s debacle with Tom DeLonge and their disastrous effort with the release of Neighbourhoods are indications of a band that is clearly unwell. Good Charlotte has recently come off hiatus, but their recently released music seems to clutch desperately at the sound that catapulted them into the commercial limelight – only to have their careers ruined by appalling pop music. Many hold onto the dream that My Chemical Romance shall reform at some point, Sum 41 performed a reunion show last year, and Green Day are still on some extended hiatus after headlining Reading and Leeds in 2014. It seems that the commercial hard-hitters of the pop punk industry are all stuck in some kind of perpetual limbo where they are either recording music or pottering around their houses making terrible dad jokes.

There are no structured reasons for why these bands failed but many have chalked it down to substance abuse, strained band relations, or a combination of both. They are things that seem to affect many pop punk bands but have not seemed to affect one stalwart of the pop punk scene: Simple Plan. They have experienced the dizzying heights of mainstream success yet have stuck together as a band for 17 years while consistently delivering albums – with the exception of 2016’s release of Taking One for the Team. It is their first album since 2011’s Get Your Heart On! – a pop rock meets pop-punk hybrid which saw them reaching a bit of a denouement with regards to their mainstream success. This denouement could explain why it took Simple Plan five years to put together a new album, but a better explanation would be to acknowledge that the band members are perfectionists and nothing they recorded could meet the standard they wanted to achieve for their fifth studio album.

The long wait for the album is almost worth it. It opens with explosive palm-muted guitars – a characteristic that has been inherent to Simple Plan since their debut album. It is these palm-muted guitars in “Opinion Overload” that acknowledge that they are here to amalgamate their distinctive pop punk sound with the maturity that comes with being in your late 30s. “Opinion Overload” is an over-charged frenzy of energy that lashes out at critics and naysayers who would try to criticise Simple Plan for releasing a new album. It is a simple statement that can be summed up in four words: “We do not care”. The energy of “Opinion Overload” gets carried over into “Boom!” – a song that is as fun as it sounds. Pierre Bouvier rattles on about being in love as infectious four-chord riffs ricochet off the walls as if they were brimming with the very love about which Bouvier sings. Taking One for the Team is brimming with these romantic sentiments as Bouvier and co trample down a path less travelled by pop punk bands. Most modern pop punk acts are brimming with teen angst, but Simple Plan shows their age by creating love-soaked pop-punk anthems like “Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching” and “Perfectly Perfect”.

There are other songs that see Simple Plan straying away from this love-soaked formula. The most notable song born out of this straying is that of “I Refuse”. It draws on inspiration from the hardcore punk bands from which pop punk was born. “I Refuse” is a no-holds barred punk anthem for the disenfranchised youth. It is one of the few times where Simple Plan shows a shred of teen angst on Taking One for the Team as they belt out a neutered version of a Rise Against song.

Taking One for the Team is a nostalgic blast of refreshing pop punk energy combined with the sensibility of old age, but there are two outliers on the album that draw from the quality of the album: the terrible reggae-pop songs that are “Singing In The Rain” and Nelly’s insertion on the pop-rock ballad that is “I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed”. The band may be trying to experiment with new sounds on these songs, but they just break up the flow and consistency of the album while making it rather unbearable at times.

6/10

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Made For Broadway – Life Lessons

I revised this introduction fifty times. Each revision involved angrily deleting every word as I attempted to find words to introduce pop punk in a serious fashion, and that got me thinking. Pop punk has never really been a serious genre yet so many music journalists act as if it is the most serious genre on the planet. This can be attributed to the fact that pop punk has always been stereotyped as an inferior genre due to its carefree and “fun” nature.

Pop punk bands get such a hard time because they immediately become associated with the punk scene when they adopt the label of “pop punk”. Punk has always been a rather serious and self-aware genre and pop punk just violated the core values of punk. It’s ridiculous lyrics about unrequited love, shitty hometowns, skateboarding and a variety of other miscellaneous themes, all of which have become entrenched in the pop punk culture, caused people to immediately write it off as a waste of time. A tactic that didn’t work because by the time they did that – pop punk had already become a core part of late 90s alternative youth culture as they drifted away from being besotted with grunge and saw how pop punk was being polarised from traditional punk culture. Bands like Green Day and Blink 182 skyrocketed to success and allowed for the integration of the genre into the mainstream youth culture that came to dominate the early to late 2000s.

It was at this point, during the early 2000s, that pop punk became incredibly relevant to South Africa. The South African rock scene had just risen out of the shackles of the oppressive Apartheid regime and was struggling to find a musical identity. It only seemed natural that pop punk would gain popularity with so many new bands entering the scene. Bands like Tweak, and later CrashCarBurn, fronted an explosion of punk and pop punk bands that seemed to dominate South Africa for several years until they all mysteriously vanished from major line-ups as soon as indie rock began to gain popularity overseas and youth culture was changed once again. However, youth culture is once again returning to its pop punk roots and modern pop punks are once again the soundtrack to high school. However, this growth in popularity has not been reflected in the South African music scene ever since indie pop became the genre of choice for commercial success.

Pop punk may seem like a dead genre if one looks at the South African music scene as a whole. You need to focus on one particular city to realise that pop punk is alive and kicking. There is one band, Made For Broadway, who are flying the flag high for South African pop punk with the release of their debut album Life Lessons. It is high-octane pop punk album that dabbles in tongue-in-cheek satirical commentary about the South African music industry while also ploughing through the usual horde of love songs that could dabble as anti-love songs and a horde of other songs that draw on a variety of other pop punk stereotypes. The stereotypes actually serve to further Made For Broadway’s satirical commentary.

For instance, “Royalty” follows the typical stereotype of being the underdogs and feeling like their hometown is holding the back. This is usually an ironic and angst-driven statement when American or British pop punk bands do it, but for many South African bands – it is a reality. Made For Broadway manage to deliver scathing criticism of how many talented bands find it difficult to chase their dreams due to the lack of support found in their hometown. They also manage to use the song as a manifesto for their career: they want to be rock royalty and Life Lessons could propel them to those heights.

This is especially true if one looks to the musical backbone of Life Lessons. It does not follow in the generic path of most modern pop punk where bands regurgitate the same four chords and spend a lot of time writing annoying choruses. They have rather devised an intricate set-up that combines catching melodies and soaring harmonies with punishing hardcore breakdowns and the teen angst of an existential crisis. A notable moment of their technical skill can be heard on “I Won’t Apologise” as the band drops all pretences of being a pop punk band and rather deliver a complex yet groovy guitar and drum arrangement that layered pop punk catchiness with the grating intensity of post-hardcore and the bopping groove of 90s rap rock. It generates a unique sense of fluidity that is not often seen in modern pop punk. It is evidence of a band that has carefully watched the genre evolve over time and decided to pull on a plethora of influences with the most notable being early Blink 182, A Day To Remember and CrashCarBurn. There is even a moment on “Solid Ground” where the band sounds like they were about to perform a parody of Silverstien.

Made For Broadway has delivered a truly brilliant album in the form of Life Lessons. It has been a while since South Africa has been exposed to pop punk. It is a much-needed exposure as the constant cycle of average indie-pop bands needs to be broken. South Africa needs diversity in its music scene, and Made For Broadway bring it.

9/10

2016’s Most Anticipated 30 Albums!

Each year kicks off with much excitement regarding new dreams, new adventures, new challenges and most importantly in our opinion brand new album releases to get excited about.

We compiled our Top 30 most anticipated album, and EP, releases for the year in no particular order, please feel free to comment with albums or EPs you are excited about! Continue reading 2016’s Most Anticipated 30 Albums!

ALBUM REVIEW: Paper Hearts – Portrait

Pop punk may not have the biggest presence in South Africa, but it is all but dead in the USA. With the success of bands like All Time Low, the return of Good Charlotte and the massive influence of Blink-182, pop punk still has a heartbeat. Seeing bands like Paper Hearts emerging on the scene, then, doesn’t come as a surprise.

Calling Boston MA home, Paper Hearts are an up and coming four-piece band, with their feet firmly planted in pop punk. This is evident in their latest release, a six track EP entitled Portrait. Not foreign to pop punk, (although not necessarily typical of pop punk) is the inclusion of heavier elements, things like harsh vocals and breakdown rhythms, typically associated with metal and such genres – which we also hear cropping up through the EP.

A band’s first release is always an interesting one. In their first release a band is making a statement of who they are, and building a fanbase. For this reason well-written songs and a polished sound are a must.

However, a first release also puts a band in a situation they typically don’t find themselves in again: they are free to define themselves however they like. Yes, they are limited by what people will take to, and this must be factored in – after all, if people don’t like what they hear they won’t listen, and the band does need some following if they hope to get anywhere. Yet, while they are limited in this sense, they aren’t in another that there are no expectations and criticisms from fans and critics that need to be considered (although not denying that critics aren’t always right and a band is free to take their music in whatever direction they please, and often do).

Paper Hearts, with their EP Portrait, have defined themselves in a particular way. They have found roots firmly in pop punk, they have included elements from both sides of the spectrum, including elements from both pop and heavy music. This is Paper Hearts. The question is, how well do they pull off the sound they’re going for?

The rhythms they use, particularly in the more breakdown-like sections, are effective in getting the blood pumping. I wouldn’t be surprised to see people jumping and head-banging in time at their live shows.

In many metal bands I hear the focus is the harsh vocals. However, often there are also clean vocals, often done by one of the other players (the guitarist or bassist, perhaps). Often their voice is nothing amazing, but somehow it works and complements the overall feel and shape of the song in a very effective way. I wouldn’t want them on lead vocals, but losing those clean vocals would nevertheless be a huge loss.

With bands like Paper Hearts it seems like there’s potential for the reverse. Whoever it is in the band doing the harsh vocals, I wouldn’t want them on lead vocals doing that, but it adds something to the song that just works. In Portrait, however, because it’s so sparse it makes it sound once-off, and therefore arbitrary. With such situations there must be justification for it not to raise eyebrows – justification I just don’t hear in Portrait. Either they should think about doing more with it, or leaving it out – and if I’m honest, I would opt for the latter.

Paper Hearts don’t just explore the heavy end of the spectrum, however. In “Remember the Day” there is a section in which one of the band members tries their hand at some rap. Are they successful? No. No, they are not.

Where the pop punk is pure pop punk, the band thrives. The guitar solos are well executed and melodically interesting. Hamilton’s vocals are strong, but can get better (and I don’t doubt they will). The use of the double pedal in the drums is effective.

As a new band on the scene, Paper Hearts still have plenty to learn, but plenty of time to do so. They have plenty going for them, and as a young band it will be interesting to see how they develop, as they build on the foundation that is their EP.

6/10

ALBUM REVIEW: 5 Seconds of Summer – Sounds Good Feels Good

Boy band. It is a term that automatically generates negative connotations. Music consumers immediately think of generic bubblegum pop groups with members that are barely out of their teens and a fan-base that is more obsessive than it is appreciative. It is a label that every young male band wants to avoid but find it almost impossible to do so because if you’re under the age of 21 and your debut album has even the slightest pop rock influence – you’re immediately thrown into a life of fame, fortune and presupposed mediocrity.

It was a lifestyle that 5 Seconds of Summer was catapulted into last year with the release of their self-titled debut album. The band’s catchy hybrid of early 2000s pop punk and modern pop rock left critics bemused. The conservative media lashed out with unbridled vitriol at yet another “boy band”, and in a weird twist of events: Harry Styles and the rest of his ilk in One Direction were defended by traditional music journalists. They may have been slated by the press, but that did not stop them from amassing a horde of dedicated fans. However, despite this success, the band are stuck with being labelled a boy band- it is something that the band has often publically rejected and is a label that overshadowed the months leading up to the release of their sophomore album Sounds Good Feels Good

Their sophomore album places the band in an interesting position. It allows them to finally weigh in on the “boy band” or “rock band” debate without it seeming like they were lashing out at the media. To assist them in their war against the boy band label, 5 Seconds of Summer went ahead and recruited Benji and Joel Madden. The Madden brothers are best known for fronting Good Charlotte – a band whose whimsical pop punk anthems laid down the groundwork for the path that 5 Seconds of Summer would later walk. However, Sounds Good Feels Good is not an homage to Good Charlotte, but rather their attempt at finding an identity within the post-Blink 182 and Green Day narrative that we currently find ourselves.

It is a narrative in which most pop punk bands fail to find a proper sense of identity due to the fractured and fragmented state of the genre. It is one of the few musical genres that has managed to develop so many derivative sounds yet has failed to splinter itself into a wide variety of sub-genres to appropriately match these derivative sounds. It is at this point of the fragmented narrative that 5 Seconds of Summer finds themselves opening their album with studio chatter and typical male banter, before delivering their own special brand of hormonal pop-punk napalm. In the opening four songs of the album, 5 Seconds of Summer delivers thundering pop-punk anthems laden with meaty guitar hooks, catchy drum patterns and immense sing-along choruses. “Money” is a straight-up early 2000s pop-punk meets pop rock hybrid that laughs in the face of the immense amount of that they have received as they throw out passing references to their success while still delivering their normal teen heartthrob aesthetic.

“She’s Kinda Hot” open with a misogynistic lyrical theme as they reduce their female fanbase to the descriptive phrase of “she’s kinda hot though”. It may seem horrific in today’s politically correct culture, but if you view the song in the light that it is an homage to their pop-punk forefathers then is it really much of a surprise? At least they redeem themselves by delivering a standalone pop-punk anthem that preaches solidarity in nonconformity. It is a rowdy tribute to all those rejects from society that would usually form the backbone of most pop punk bands’ fanbases. Put this next to “Permanent Vacation” and you could be tricked into thinking that 5 Seconds of Summer were a straight-up anti-establishment pop-punk band.  “Permanent Vacation” sees the band snarling about breaking down the culture of pop consumerism with lyrics like “congratulations/ your imitations / are taking over / the radio stations”. It is just a pity that the band shoots themselves in the foot with the rest of Sounds Good Feels Good.

They may style themselves as a pop punk band, but in the end they are more pop than they are punk but do not let this detract from the integrity and quality of the remainder of the album. “Jet Black Heart” is a dark, soaring love anthem whose only flaw is slightly clichéd songwriting, but it does lend some insight into the complexities surrounding being in love with someone when you are dealing with mental issues and coping with being in one of the most successful bands of the 21st century. “Flyaway” reignites the pop-punk flame with thundering guitar hooks and four-chord riffs as 5 Seconds of Summer once again demonstrate their knack for pop-punk anthems. However, this happy atmosphere is punctuated by the sombre and depressing “Invisible” that draws influence from the emo anthems produced by the likes of All Time Low, Green Day and Blink 182. It’s acoustic rhythms and soaring orchestral accompaniment is a sobering reminder that pop music is not always about the highs.

If there is anything that can be taken from Sounds Good Feels Good – it is that 5 Seconds of Summer are most definitely not a boyband. The band managed to mature in the space of a year. One can actually imagine that they might be on the cusp of adulthood rather than merely being a band of nineteen-year-olds. It is an album that accepts the fact 5 Second of Summer will never be seen as a true punk or rock band, but they will fight to be seen as the next generation of pop punk – a fight that these boys will win.

6/10

 

 

LIVE REVIEW: Tweak At The Assembly

Punk, in particular pop punk, is a misaligned genre in South Africa. It hovers somewhere between next-to-none support for local bands, and a fixated obsession with the various international bands that manage to find their way into the playlists of South African punks. However, ten years ago pop punk reigned supreme at the height of Tweak’s career. The band were trailblazers that bought a raw, authentic burst of fast-paced pop punk that left South African music fans in a state of shock and awe.

Ten years down the line, The Assembly is transformed from a mainstream indie rock and electronic music to a sweating, seething pit of teenage nostalgia and rebellion, as it bore witness to the final leg of Tweak’s ten year anniversary tour. It was an event unlike any I’ve seen, as a vast multitude of fans flocked to The Assembly for one purpose: to watch Tweak and remember the days gone by when they could be young and carefree, or if you were me then you would have gradually come to the realisation that you’re actually pretty young in comparison to the greater schemes of thing.

Who knew that one could have an epiphany at a punk rock show, but that is beside the point. The real point is that Saturday played host to a night where the spirit of pop punk in South Africa was revived by the explosive combination of Veladraco, Half Price, and Tweak. Veladraco is a band that makes me incredibly happy simply because they sound like early 2000s emo pop punk reimagined for the modern era. They’re rather like South Africa’s version of Neck Deep – except they have opened for All Time Low yet, but with such an authentic, catchy and raw sound they are bound to make it pretty far in their career. Also, the band consists of two members of Derick Watts and The Sunday Blues, so the banter between songs was sublime.

Veladraco was followed up by Half Price: one of the few South African bands that can get away with calling the crowd “motherfuckers”. They’re a rough and unkempt group of aggressive punk rockers that thundered through a set-list whose sole goal was to warm the crowd up for the upbeat pop-punk anthems of Tweak. Snarling guitar riffs, thundering bass riffs and crashing drums pumped out The Assembly’s sound system – one that managed to surprisingly cope with the abuse Half Price pumped into the system despite the technical difficulties that occurred during Veladraco’s set.

It was now time for Tweak, and the real question was whether the band had changed at all after morphing into CrashCarBurn for the past ten years. When they opened on “House Party”, and hit the chorus, it was apparent that Tweak still sounded like the band that we all fell in-love with over ten years ago. The entire night was a triumphant celebration of the fact that a band can remain incredibly relevant even after having not performed for ten years. They leaped from one height to another as they have powered through a set-list filled with all the classics like “Buy the World, “Girls Rule Da World”, “Britney Spears”, “Birthday Card” and more. They even decided to throw things back to the late 90s and early 2000s by launching into a melody that fused Green Day, Blink 182 and Bloodhound Gang, and eventually had the entire crowd singing “Basket Case”.

Saturday was a night for pop punk magic, and nothing could have been more magical than watching Tweak finish off their ten year anniversary tour. Here is to hoping that in another ten years, they shall decide to embark on a twenty year tour, because I’m sure the next generation of South African music fans shall be craving their pop punk melodies.

Win A Copy Of Teenage Dirtbags

No. This is not a competition to win some obscure physical copy of Wheatus’s “Teenage Dirtbag” – although that would be pretty cool, but not the case with regards to this particular contest. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to offer that as some collectors album. Until then you’ll have to settle for Teenage Dirtbags: the most complete compilation of rock music from the past two decades.

Teenage Dirtbags pays tribute to the past two decades of modern rock, but it does it with a slight North American bias. Despite this bias, Teenage Dirtbags hits you with all the classics from the past two decades with the likes of Blink 182’s pop punk classic “All The Small Things”, Alien Ant Farm’s brilliant cover of “Smooth Criminal”, P.O.D’s nu-metal stylings on “Alive”, American Hi-Fi’s “Flavor Of The Week” and more being featured on disc 1 of this particular compilation. Disc 2 sees the more modern bands, and the flurry of one hit-wonders, receiving some recognition with Fall Out Boy’s “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”, The Pretty Reckless’s “Make Me Wanna Die”, +44’s “When Your Heart Stops Beating” and many others make their apperance to round off the selection of rock bands that have dominated the millennium. Obviously, the compilation does stop short of breaching into the current decade as it ends on the penultimate classic of Panic! At The Disco’s “The Ballad Of Mona Lisa” – which gives us a brief taste of the early beginnings of pop punk at the turn of the decade in 2011. You

Teenage Dirtbags is an collector item for all connoisseurs of modern rock music, and would make a brilliant addition to one’s road-trip playlist. The best part is that South African Music Scene, in partnership with Universal Music South Africa, are giving five lucky readers the opportunity to win a physical copy of this particular album. All one has to do is comment below with their favourite rock band from the past two decades.

Winners shall be announced on Friday, 12 June at 1pm and shall also be notified via email.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Story So Far – The Story So Far

Pop punk is a genre that is often the butt of many jokes and stereotypes within the music industry. It is a genre that is plagued by a slew of copycat Blink 182 bands that like pizza and skateboarding a lot more than any normal human should, and this is why they can be found shouting over regurgitated four chord riffs about how some girl stole their pizza and rode off on their skateboard. Okay, that doesn’t happen – but I would pay to hear a song about that. What you should take from that is that pop punk is a genre that is easily mocked, and often for good reasons.

However, that does not necessarily mean that pop punk is in-fact a terrible genre. I, for one, am absolutely besotted with many pop punk bands, and none them have written a song about pizza or skateboarding – except perhaps Blink 182. Many of these bands vehemently defend their beloved genre, and the niche that they have formed in the genre. Bands like Man Overboard, Neck Deep, and Broadside all cast themselves as the defenders of the genre, but perhaps the most aggressive defenders of the genre comes in the form of Bay Area pop-punk outfit The Story So Far.

The Story So Far consistently defended the genre with their previous two albums, Under Soil and Dirt and What You Don’t See, and their self-titled third album is no exception. That is possibly the only problem with this particular album. Some people may favour consistency, but with the amount of attention that this album has been receiving – I had hoped that Parker Cannon would shake-up the sound of his band and perhaps try something new. Instead, The Story So Far falls into the trap that has ensnared so many bands before them: being too consistent. The Story So Far delivers their standard formula of catchy melodies, needling guitar work, off-tempo percussion, and the shouty vocals of their lead singer Parker Cannon. It becomes a question of why should one mess with a formula that clearly works. Sound logic, but this often means that people, in the long run, start to become incredibly bored with your band, and starting hating the band.

However, not every band is Nickelback, and The Story So Far have a few tricks up their sleeves to ensure that you won’t focus as much on how similar their album sounds to the previous two.  Those tricks can be summed up into one word: lyrics. Yes, lyrics. A band could have the most blatantly generic sound in the world, but if their lyrics are brilliant then you immediately have the makings of a fairly decent album. The band ploughs through ten tracks of pure catharsis as Cannon pours his heart out into the mic, and delivers a series of poignantly honesty lyrics that reflect the heart-shattering nature of a failing relationship, and their aftermath of the fallout of that particular relationship. The emotion that Cannon exhibts is highlighted by his continued fixation with the colour blue, and how it crops up in many of the songs on the album – implying a sense of depression and loneliness. His emotions are further highlighted by the simplistic yet sluggish nature of the song structure, and how it aptly adds to the atmosphere of angst and catharsis that dominates the album – especially on the likes of “Solo” and “Heavy Gloom”.

The most powerful moment comes in the form of a wild departure from The Story So Far’s sound on “Phantom”. The song is reminiscent of the acoustic EP that they did last year, and makes for one of the most honest moments on the album. It is a moment of pure desperation and heart-wrenching agony that is delivered in a neat 2 minutes and 30 seconds of acoustic chords, hazy guitar riffs and a delicately beautiful melody. It is this kind of intermission that pulls The Story So Far from being just another angsty record about break-ups to being one of the most honest and powerful pop punk albums of this decade. Albeit, it is still a rather unoriginal album, but I’ll give it a solid six out of ten for sheer emotional impact.

6/10

ALBUM REVIEW: All Time Low – Future Hearts

All Time Low are practically the golden boys of pop punk. Their story is the typical one of forming in high school, releasing an EP and debut album, and then being picked up by one of the biggest independent alternative labels around. After signing to Hopeless Records, All Time Low skyrocketed to fame on the pop punk circuit with each new album marking new heights for the band. 12 years later and All Time Low are still going strong with main stage slots for Soundwave, Reading and Leeds, and headline slots for several other slots. This all perfectly coincides with the release of their new album Future Hearts.

Throughout their six album discography, and several EPs, there has been a notable shift in their sound. They started off, like many pop punk bands of their time, writing songs that were innately happy and stuck with all the clichés. It was understandable as they were only teenagers at the time, and were just graduating from high school when they were picked up by Hopeless Records. As the years progressed, the band grew up and began taking their music a bit more seriously. The culmination of this process of maturing was 2012’s Don’t Panic – a mature dose of pop punk peppered with intelligent sensibilities of a group of men in their late 20s.

It may have sparked much resentment from fans who wanted something slightly more light-hearted from the band, but it did give the starting point for the creation of an album that will turn out to be the best album that All Time Low has released to date. That album is Future Hearts, and has been one of the most anticipated albums by myself, and the pop punk community as a whole. Future Hearts takes the mature sound that characterised Don’t Panic and peppers it with the youthful abandon of their early albums.

When most bands decide to “grow up” – they tend to lose sight of where they had come from, and end up creating albums that sound like they’ve had the life sucked out of them. Blink 182’s Neighbourhoods is a prime example of this, but that is not the direction that All Time Low have gone. They deliver a consistent mixture of high-paced and upbeat pop punk anthems, and slower and more thoughtful and sincere pop rock ballads. It creates an interesting juxtaposition as All Time Low tiptoes between throwing out four chord hooks, and delivering piercingly retrospective lyrics alongside delicate acoustic guitars. Songs like “Somethings Got to Give” deliver the fast-paced and ridiculously catchy sound that we had all grown to love. Other songs like “Tidal Waves” (featuring Mark Hoppus) deliver a much more subdued and emotional sound.

However, no matter if they’re slugging out gritty four chord riffs on “Don’t You Go” or strumming away on an acoustic guitar on “Missing You” – All Time Low still consistently deliver songs that reflect similar themes. Future Hearts is an album that takes a retrospective look at their career as a whole as they reminisce on days go by and what it was like starting out, but there is a slight twist. As the title suggests, it also looks towards the future. It becomes an album that states what has happened in the past has happened, and we now have to look towards the future and make it our own.

This is an album for the disenfranchised youth. An album for those adult who aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives. It is for that university student at 1am furiously working on an essay. It is for everyone who is terrified of the future. It is for those who are scared of the past. It is an album for everyone who has every felt something for someone. Future Hearts may sound like a pop punk album, but there is no denying that it is a lot more than that. “They left us alone, the kids in the dark / To burn out forever or light up a spark”