Review: The Bombpops – Death In Venice Beach

The Bombpops have always been a band that I should be in love with. Raging guitars, dual female vocals, and slick Drive-Thru Records pop sensationalism sound like keys to success. However, the band’s first album, Fear of Missing Out (2017) never quite clicked with its songs about partying in California. What that album lacked was the acknowledgment of the hangover the next day (with exception to the references to shitting your pants in “I Can’t”). That’s why their sophomore effort, Death In Venice Beach feels so vividly refreshing as a follow up. Facing the consequences of punishing your body and mind, the dark side of alcoholism and tying it together with troubled romance, Death in Venice Beach is the album The Bombpops were always meant to write.

You can buy or stream Death in Venice Beach on Apple Music.

Vocalists and guitarists Jen Razavi and Poli van Dam cruise through each song with surprising executions of pop melodies while maintaining an almost monotone punk sneer similar to Bad Religion (“Can’t Come Clean”). They hoist a devastating wall of noise and thrilling guitar work that sounds equal parts flashy, buzzy and infectious (“Notre Dame”). Bassist Neil Wayne weaves incredible bass lines throughout every song that really stand out due to stellar production (“Sad To Me”). Drummer Josh Lewis excels at the style of punk rock percussion that helped me fall in love with the genre in the first place (“13 Stories Down”).

Death In Venice Beach really shines in the small details that show the aftermath of living hard, and dealing with life unraveling around you. The destructive alcoholism is a prominent theme that filters throughout the album. “Can’t Come Clean” is a rager that admits the fault in starting drunken fights and the shame that follows after sobering up. Audio of an argument where one of the band members threatens to quit plays at the start, making lyrics such as, “I’m always posting things on the internet / And if I ever read the bullshit, it makes me regret everything / That’s why I can’t come clean,” even more pronounced.

Rock bottom appears during “13 Stories Down” with the vivid descriptions of isolation due to alcoholism, a relationship that keeps pushing the situation, and admitting that this lifestyle will end up killing them. It’s a heartbreaking song boosted by an uplifting pop tempo and soaring bass (“Home alone cuz once again / I’ve been ditched by all my so-called friends / There’s nothing left but pull that bottle off the shelf / And catalog my worst regrets…”).

“Double Arrows Down”, a terrifying tale of passing out in a gas station from complications with diabetes, is equal parts remorseful and rage at the condition. “There’s days I wanna close my eyes and never wake up to my numbers high / Just lay there until all I read is low / … / This needle’s wearing thin and there’s no end”.

Thankfully, not every song is so massively heavy. “Sad To Me”, a pop punk essential in the vein of an early track from The Starting Line, is primed to be a live show defining number. “Notre Dame” compares a toxic relationship to watching the famed cathedral burn by wondering how after all the time it took to build up something sacred, it just ends in destruction.

Death In Venice Beach isn’t as coherent as it could be given the amount of topics covered from song to song, but it is a thrilling collection of stories woven together. It acts as a perfect counterbalance to the issues found on Fear of Missing Out and makes The Bombpops are an absolute force to be reckoned with in the punk scene. With stellar craftsmanship, writing and production, Death in Venice Beach is an album that should be talked about up until the release of The Bombpops’ next album.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 smells of sweet, delicious scones.

Review: MxPx – MxPx

Self-titling an album is always a bold move, but to do it a quarter century into a career is something special. At this point, MxPx are one of the legends of the skate punk/pop punk scene, which makes it fitting that their newest album, MxPx is a reflection of their accomplishments and favorite memories. It genuinely sounds like the band are continuously having a blast. If anything, it confirms the brilliance of loud, fast simplicity in music and is a reminder of why people fell in love with punk to begin with.

You can buy or stream MxPx on Apple Music.

MxPx is an album that finds joy in reflection. It’s pure energy that at once shows the craft of a band so far into their career, as well as the manic noise that draws so many people to punk rock. While it sounds like it could have fallen out of 1998, MxPx is an record that relishes not being more than it is and doubles down on itself in an era when bands (and audiences) seem obsessed with finding something new.

Its greatest strength is that it is simple in construct. The music sounds similar to the skate punk of 20 years ago, though more refined. The lyrics wholeheartedly become party ready sing-a-longs, but there are glimpses of a career well earned and fondly remembered. It’s a touch that makes the record feel like a celebration of the band itself as much as it is meant to excite a crowd into a frenzy.

Album opener, “Rolling Strong” sets the tone for the album as singer Mike Herrera proudly boasts, “There’s no giving up, no going home / We’ll be here till the end / We’re pressing on / Probably should have asked a friend, but that not how we’re living / We’re still rolling strong”. It’s a song that really sounds like the band still love what they do, especially during a breakdown filled with enthusiastic shouts and crazed guitars.

MxPx finds ways to mix memories with the youthful optimism of pop punk in ways that sound neither self-indulgent nor ham-fisted. “The Way We Do” has a generic sounding chorus about following your dreams (“This is the way we do / Like the way we always wanted to”), but dispersed between these are stories about past tours and great nights on the road. “Let me live on through the songs and stories / Like that time Face to Face destroyed our van / Our freezing balls, crossed Canada with Simple Plan / Or stealing food from Bad Religion’s dressing room”.

Closing song, “Moments Like This” sends off a message of hope about making the most out of life and enjoying freedom while you have it. “It’s moments like this, that I’m gonna miss / When I’m dead and gone and I can’t kiss my kids / Will they look up at the sky and think about me? / These are the ways I’ve been spending my days, thinking weird thoughts and the things that amaze / Beyond my life and the way I’ve been able to live it so free.”

Though I listen to a lot of punk rock, I find music similar to skate punk hard to comment on. Predicated on fast guitars, steady drums and thundering bass lines, it can start to run together extraordinarily easily. However, simplicity is the biggest strength of MxPx. Many bands who started in the genre around the same time as MxPx, such as blink-182 and AFI, have drastically changed their sound over the years. Without more familiarity with MxPx, I can’t say for sure how their self-titled album compares to their earlier work, but it is crafted with the strength of a band who isn’t trying to build their reputation as much as they’re putting it on display.

MxPx is an album that should make fans of the band proud, and one of the few self-titled albums that seem to truly represent the band as a whole. While it provides one of the most fleshed-out versions of lightning quick punk rock, it makes the genre feel relevant and energized. MxPx could have been released anywhere in the last two decades, but it wouldn’t have quite the same depth of nostalgia or inspiration. Perhaps more important than anything though, MxPx is just incredibly fun to listen to.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 he just heard the cabinet in his bathroom open and close on its own. He is typing this to avoid having to go see why it did that. The cat sitting on his lap seems alarmed as well. Booooo.