Timing is key. Releasing an album at the right time can make or break a band and catapult a style of music to fame. As a recent fan of Showoff, I’ve been unaware of most of their history in the Chicago music scene, but the people who grew up with them will tell you that they came “this close” to making it big before they seemed to just disappear in the early 2000’s.
The band’s follow up to 1999’s self-titled album was only just recently released within the last couple of months online. Recorded in 2001 (Thanks Wikipedia!), Wish You Were Her… is a throwback to an era when pop punk was exploding. Had it originally released when it was meant to, there’s a chance it could be regarded the same way that people talk about New Found Glory’s Sticks and Stones.
Wish You Were Her does something that few records manage to do: the songwriting shows its age, but the songs hold up as great pop punk songs by today’s standards. I say that they show their age because of how “simple” they sound. The guitars chug with a crisp determination, with gang chorus vocals and elements of ska from the late 90’s. The songs remind me of hearing New Found Glory or Simple Plan for the firs time in high school. It’s a feeling that most modern bands attempt to replicate, but sadly can’t pull off.
Unfortunately, due to a revolving door of lineup changes through the years, I have no idea who plays what parts on the album. The guitars grind out waves of skater punk (“Losing It”), only to suddenly be interrupted by a quick, succinct solo (“I Won’t Leave You”) or a few lines that remind you why pop punk caught on in the first place (“Jackie”). The bass thumps along as a hidden highlight (“So Long”), blistering under the guitars. The drumming sounds a bit simpler than the effort on Showoff, but is intricately spaced within the ska sound and reminds me at times of early Blink 182’s Travis Barker (“Waiting For You”, “Hello Again”).
Vocalist Chris Envy is phenomenal, throwing high notes and energy into most every chorus and lyric (“Losing It”). Depending on what fans liked about Showoff, they may be disappointed at the disappearance of most of Envy’s rap-inspired singing. The songs are incredibly fun. You won’t find much in the way of modern pop punk’s trend of social commentary or personal life experience. Instead, it relishes in the instantly memorable, sing-along-pop of relationships and angst.
The gang vocal chorus for “Losing It” of, “I’m drifting away, can’t stand to feel this way / Maybe it’s all of those little things / Tell me you’re using, seems you’ve been using me”. “Bad Date” is flush with the humor of the late 90’s, from bands like Blink 182 or Homegrown, and hearing the song made me realize how much I’ve missed it from modern punk. As Envy sings, “Lighting my cigarette, I accidentally set fire to her hair / I guess what I said had a lot to do with it / She said I’m crazy and I smell like shit / I tried to kiss her and I got bit / I guess I’m not getting laid”.
I’m sad that this album just became available. There are several songs that sound prime to have been singles in 2001, dueling on TRL with Simple Plan. “Losing It” and “Waiting For You” sound like they were prepped for radio play. Showoff in 2016 seems to be a Chicago-based effort, with Wish You Were Her a reward for longtime fans and a bridge for new fans (such as myself) to fall in love with.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been listening to the townsfolk talk about Showoff for years before actually listening to them. You know, like an adult and a lover of music. Way to support the cause, dummy.