Reflecting On: MxPx – The Ever Passing Moment

The first MxPx release to catch my ear wasn’t a studio album. In the summer of 1999, the band released At the Show, a 21-track live album coming on the heels of an unprecedented run of solid gold pop punk – literally. Life in General firmly legitimized the band in 1996 before 1998’s Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo was certified gold, followed by Let it Happen, one of the greatest collections of B-sides the genre has seen. The skate punk kids from Bremerton had arrived.

You can buy or stream The Ever Passing Moment on Apple Music.

At the Show introduced me to the band and served as a primer on their greatest hits. Even now, when the studio version “Chick Magnet” comes on, I sing along with the vocals of Mike Herrera’s much looser and more playful live rendition. It’s probably no surprise then that 2000’s The Ever Passing Moment is my favorite MxPx album. It was the first one to release after I’d fallen head-over-heels in love with the band.

It is now 20 years old, which almost seems impossible.

You can have a lot of fun debates about which MxPx album is the best because there really aren’t any bad ones. And while I’ve always conceded that Life in General stands at the front of the pack, it’s never held the same place in my heart. The Ever Passing Moment finds the band at the top of their game with nothing to prove. Free from their divorce from Tooth & Nail Records, MxPx seemed to spread their wings on A&M – three years later, they would release their most commercial album to date with Before Everything & After.

Almost every one of the album’s 15 tracks clocks in at under 3 minutes, and each flexes the band’s most impressive muscle – fast-paced, left coast punk rawk. The Ever Passing Moment breezes by effortlessly, which is probably why I’ve played it so relentlessly over the years that I know every beat and turn like the back of my hand. Not to mention the litany of memorable moments that reside in MxPx lore, from the stomping chorus of “Responsibility” to Dave Grohl’s scream of “One, two, three, go!” at the start of “The Next Big Thing”.

Because the album is so solid from front to back, it takes the pressure off the singles to carry two decades’ worth of weight. I’ve always found unsung tracks like “Two Whole Years”, “Foolish”, “Answer in the Question”, and “Unsaid” to be just as fun, energetic, and memorable as anything in the band’s catalogue. And truly, that’s how you end up talking about an album 20 years later – it has to be an album worth talking about.

As the pop punk genre took off into the mainstream at the start of the new century, MxPx began their transition to a band of legacy. To date, the band has released five more full-length albums since The Ever Passing Moment, each worthy of celebration, even if they didn’t hold quite the same level of influence. No matter. A large majority of the onslaught of pop punk’s new wave could trace their lineage back to MxPx. 

If Life in General was the album that made a new generation of punks want to pick up a guitar, The Ever Passing Moment was the album that served as the definitive playbook for pop punk excellence.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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.

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: The Interrupters Become the Title Holder

The Interrupters have slowly become the most famous band no one has heard of. Early in 2019, I discovered their album Fight The Good Fight (2018), after it had been out for almost a full year. Not only did this album set off a four-month spree of listening to nearly nonstop ska music, I also found out that I was the last person to discover them. Friends who don’t even listen to music were fans, teaching their children to sing along to songs like “Title Holder” and “She’s Kerosene”.

In the two years since the release of their third album, The Interrupters have made a brazen name for themselves. Their brand of music is reminiscent of the golden age of ska punk from the early 90’s, especially with the backing and blessing of Rancid’s Tim Armstrong.

In 2020, The Interrupters are opening for Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer on The Hella Mega Tour. As the flag bearers of a modern take on classic punk music, The Interrupters are in a prime spot to capture the attention of the last few people who have yet to fall in love with them. If their next album captures even half of the magic of Fight The Good Fight, The Interrupters will have released two of the best rock albums in recent memory.

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 somehow got chocolate….. just… EVERYWHERE. Who gets chocolate on a TV screen?! He wasn’t even near it! Did it teleport there or did he blackout during an onset of of “brownie madness” and try to pet Tina Belcher’s cheek?! The world is weird.

Review: Blink-182 – Nine

Blink-182 were my first musical love. Over 20 years later, I remember hearing “What’s My Age Again?” for the first time, and the shockwave that it sent through my life, as well as the aftershock of obsession with pop punk. As Blink-182 continue to forge their second identity, it’s easier to see who they are and where they are going. If California (2016) was meant to reassure fans that they were the same band fans fell in love with, Nine is the album that reassures us that Blink-182 aren’t ready to settle on the merits of their past.

You can buy or stream Nine on Apple Music.

What stands out the most about Nine isn’t the new ground that it forges, but how it reaffirms what they have already done. If there is any of Blink’s past albums that this most resembles, it is the often neglected Neighborhoods (2011). Much like their first comeback album, Blink-182 are still searching for an identity years after creating a bedrock for the modern pop punk genre. As much as it takes a step forwards to test the boundaries of modern rock, Nine takes just as many backwards.

Nine suffers from an identity crisis. While a song like “The First Time” calls back to staples such as “Feeling This”, others such as “Happy Days” reflects the mediocrity of rock, and “Run Away” attempts to find a middle ground. Nine isn’t a bad album, it just doesn’t know what direction to lean into. Years after adding Matt Skiba as a permanent member, Blink-182 somehow sound less cohesive than ever. Some songs sound like they were included as an excuse to show off Travis Barker’s insane drumming (“I Really Wish I Hated You”).

Where Nine shines is how well it melds the legacy of Mark Hoppus’ high marks with the new sounds the band have forged over the last few years. “Heaven” provides Hoppus the chance to shout one of the catchiest choruses on the album, or meld so effortlessly into the anthemic verse and chorus sing-a-long of “Blame It On My Youth”. The signature pop of his bass is refreshing to hear, like seeing a family member again after a long time (“Happy Days”).

The effort Matt Skiba unleashes is astonishing on this album. Skiba manages to somehow make his guitar parts sound reminiscent of Tom DeLonge’s crisp style while still creating a sound different than that and of his work in Alkaline Trio (“No Heart to Speak Of”). However, while his vocals are amazing, Nine attempts to cut the difference between him and DeLonge by adding filters over many of his singing parts. These help bridge the gap between Skiba and DeLonge’s vocal pitches, but do not allow Skiba to shine through the way he should given how powerful of a singer he is.

Drummer Travis Barker erupts through each song, as he should, given he is one of the best drummers currently working and Blink-182’s long-time secret weapon. Oftentimes, Nine feels like it is designed around letting Barker shine through more than anything (“Black Rain”). Barker never stops moving and elevates what would otherwise be a mediocre rock song to become something great (“Blame It On My Youth”).

In many ways, Nine feels like a second attempt to make Neighborhoods, complete with a sequel to “Heart’s All Gone” (“No Heart To Speak Of”). Nine is catchy, fast, and melds rock with R&B drumming in a way that seems to stem directly from the Self-Titled (2003) album, but with less cohesion. Where a song like “Black Rain” pushes Blink-182 to the brink by relying on a post-punk guitar riff and near-EDM style drumming, a song such as “Hungover You” relies on tired guitar heavy choruses and lazy vocals to push it to the finish line. However, something like “On Some Emo Shit” works brilliantly by being a callback to songs from the early 2000’s, complete with a guitar solo pulled straight out of a Get Up Kids song.

Blink-182 have never been known for the weight of their lyrics, but rather for the precise catchiness of them. A Blink-182 song should make you want to sing every time you hear it, no matter what the words may be. In that regard, Nine succeeds in spades. However, if there is one song that actually says something of significance, it is the single “Blame It On My Youth”. Hoppus and Skiba reflect on the path that led them to be who they are today (“I was raised on a rerun / I was bored to death, so I started a band / Cut my teeth on a safety dance / My attention span never stood a chance”).

Other times, small lyrics cut canyons the longer you listen to them. This is especially prominent in “Generational Divide”, which uses about 30 unique words over 49 seconds of raging guitars and drums (“Are we better, are we better now?”).

Nine sees Hoppus, Skiba, and Barker testing the waters of what they want to be as a band and how deep Blink-182 fans can swim. The album pushes boundaries beyond past releases, but still settles in patches that feel far too safe. The combined talents of Blink-182 have earned the right to push themselves and forge new ground. However, Nine finds only hints of what is possible. Much like Neighborhoods, it faces the possibility that it will be forgotten in the shadow of brilliance of whatever follows it.

3/5

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 loves The Crimes of Grindelwald. Yeah, he said it and he’ll say it again to your mother.

Podcast: Talking Emo Music with Author Taylor Markarian

On the latest It’s All Dead podcast episode, Kiel Hauck is joined by Taylor Markarian, author of “From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How it Changed Society”. Taylor has written for publications like Alternative Press, Kerrang, and Revolver and also served as an intern at Epitaph Records. Her new book explores the cultural, social, and psychological factors surrounding emo and indie music. On the podcast, Taylor shares about her years growing up in the New Jersey punk and emo scene and the importance of music in mental health. Take a listen!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Like what you heard from Taylor? Pre-order her book on Amazon.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: The Futureheads – Powers

I saw The Futureheads at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival in 2007. The entirety of the festival, I was distracted by a girlfriend who was drunkenly hanging out at a frat house 3.5 hours away, so it remains a blur to me. However, one of the few remaining memories of the day was this band. Throughout the years, I have occasionally come back to their album News and Tributes, a bouncing rock album that could just as easily be a dance album. A lot has happened in the 12 years since then, and their long anticipated new album, Powers, attempts to catch fans up.

You can buy or stream Powers on Apple Music.

The last proper album from The Futureheads was released in 2010 (The Chaos). Since then, the band released an a cappella album (2012’s Rant) and then went on hiatus. In that sense, Powers doesn’t waste any time jumping back into the indie post-punk sound of their earlier albums. While Powers returns the band to their traditional rock sound, it is also an outlet to describe a mental illness by vocalist Barry Hyde which led to the band’s hiatus several years ago. Powers manages to be a fun rock album that dips its toes into psychedelia (“Mortals”) to express the mental struggles of the last few years that Hyde experienced.

Musically, Powers is reminiscent of what I loved about News and Tributes so many years ago. The album is a jam that manages to mix the nostalgic sounds of brit pop with punk eccentricity. Guitarists Barry Hyde and Ross Miller sway between simple and repetitive punk power chords to elaborate guitar solos and haunting strings at the drop of a hat (“Jekyll”). Bassist David “Jaff” Craig provides an elaborate backing melody (“Across the Border”) while drummer Dave Hyde deposits an unrelenting display of dance beats (“Don’t Look Now”). The music isn’t terribly evolved from their earlier sound (“Good Night Out”), but it is everything expected of The Futureheads. Occasionally, there are spots of Pink Floyd levels of depravity, as the music or vocals distort (“Jekyll”, “Electric Shock”).

Although the album deals with many aspects of Barry’s mental well-being and illness, it addresses it from a distance. Even songs like “Jekyll” are left intentionally vague (“Can you control the anger in your voice / Do you enjoy a spot of violence?”) However, some songs are more brutal than others, such as “Electric Shock”, which features a synth beat reminiscent of a Guitar Hero version of the “Stranger Things” theme song as Hyde sings, “It was the middle of winter when the lights went out / When I was swallowed by the darkness / When I got my electric shock / It knocked me off my feet”. 

Meanwhile, other songs lean into the mental illness aspect, such as “Mortals”, which repeats simple lyrics over simple melodies. The beat is relentless as a cappella sets of lyrics haunt the first 2:40 minutes before breaking into a blistering rock song of redemption (“But life is burning in my bones”).

Powers is a return to form for The Futureheads, which is easy to say but hard to do. The album returns to a traditional tone for the band while forging its own unique identity. The record manages to capture the momentum that the band had over a decade ago while jumping forward in style. Powers is a solid album that manages the fine line of pleasing long-time fans as well as first time listeners that bands spend their entire career trying to achieve. 

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 is running on an ADRENALINE HIGH!!!! 1:30 am! Sleep is for the healthy!

Review: Say Anything – Oliver Appropriate

When I first read the 10-page treatise on Say Anything’s demise (which I strongly suggest you do, as well), I was disappointed. I was disappointed, of course, that one of my favorite bands would no longer regularly make music, but I was also disappointed at the concept album slated to be their last. In reading Max Bemis’s thought process for the album, I was disappointed to see that this guy, who I had cheered for as he sobered up and became a family man, was artistically back where he started so many years ago.

You can buy or stream Oliver Appropriate on Apple Music.

According to Bemis, Oliver Appropriate is a sequel to …Is a Real Boy. So Max decides he’s metaphorically gonna get back into all of these insecurities and coping mechanisms that he covered way back in 2004. Oliver is Max, but not really. If you read what he wrote, it was super hard for him to get back into that mindset to create the character. He had effectively put that behind him with the rest of Say Anything’s albums. The ones where he talks about his wife, his experiences with Judaism, his struggles with family situations, and the political climate of the 2000’s. The authentic ones. That’s why I was so discouraged when I read about what we were in for. I wanted Say Anything’s final moves to be made of the same authenticity. Once I listened to it though, I realized it is authentic.

I don’t want to say that Max failed in his attempt to create the worst of the worst in punk rock, but he kind of did. Even though it’s under the guise of Oliver and about Oliver, Max is actually the name written all over this album. And even though I was originally disappointed with this direction, it was the direction I think I actually wanted all along. I think IARB had some loose ends that needed tying up. Some final thoughts on what the character’s lifestyle ended up turning him into. And, without a doubt, Oliver is the kid from IARB, just a little more grown up. He’s still just as deplorable, so much so that he ends up murdering the guy he’s supposedly “in love” with, as Max and Sherri sing in “The Hardest”.

Musically, the album is quintessential Say Anything. From “Daze”, where we get the definitive sound, to “Your Father”, where we get the scathing lyricism, Max held nothing back. There are all the expected features of friends and family, including Brianna Collins from Tigers Jaw. He says that this might not be the last Say Anything project, but it’s true enough to form, which makes me think this could be. And that’s fine with me, because his reasoning is that “[he] won’t put himself in harm’s way for anything now.” I’d way rather see someone I’ve been invested in be healthy than see them crumble.

The most telling point in the album comes at the very end of “Sediment”, with Max’s spoken word. If we take Max’s advice and treat Oliver Appropriate as the sequel to …Is a Real Boy, then it’s only right that it ends that way. What’s different here, and perhaps the most bittersweet as the Say Anything door closes for now, is the confidence that Max delivers this piece with. He sums up virtually every album the band has released in this short but moving conclusion. We’ve listened as he says, “It’s only a few lines, but I’m having anxiety about it” right up until the point where he’s so vulnerable that it seems like he’s crying when he says, “I’m viciously hungering for someone  / To love me the way my parents never did”.

We’ve essentially watched Max Bemis grow up through Say Anything and to have it end this way is something only he could do. Any other group can try to have their final (?) album echo their first, but it would sound cheesy and try-hard. Bemis has made his career this way so it’s not awkward — it’s expected. Say Anything has been a pillar of punk and emo since I can remember (admittedly not that long of a time, but still), and Oliver Appropriate is a fitting final chapter for them.

4.5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #8 Blink-182 Go Back to Move Forward

Blink-182 have been extraordinarily prolific since acquiring Matt Skiba on lead guitar. After an impressive first release in 2016 with the new lineup and a re-release double album in 2017, the band is due for a proper new record. Fortunately, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker have been teasing for the better part of a year that a new Blink-182 album is in the works.

On top of that, Hoppus has claimed that the new music sounds similar to their legendary album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Although I doubt anything could be as seminal as that album at the time of its release, a return to the band’s roots is always welcome given the talents of all involved.

After proving that they were able to reinvent with California, a chance to reflect might be what is needed to propel Blink-182 to the next level of their already storied career.

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 could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.

Review: State Champs – Living Proof

The worst thing about Living Proof, the new album from State Champs, is that it was written in 2018 and not 2004. This is an album that is full-blown pop punk in every way, wearing the genre proudly on its sleeve. Every single song is a potential single, expertly crafted to play on repeat in your head, even when you’re not listening to them.

Had this been released last decade, this is an album that could compete for the fame of Sum 41 or early Fall Out Boy. However, in 2018, it struggles to find an identity of its own. Instead, the album feels like an amalgamation of the best parts of every pop punk band in the last two decades combined to create one super album primed to dominate your summer.

You can buy Living Proof on Apple Music.

I’m not terribly familiar with State Champs, but after my first playthrough of Living Proof, I immediately went back to listen to their earlier albums. I’m in love with the band, and won’t be making the mistake of sitting on them again. Living Proof is one those rare albums designed to be a hit. Every song is radio ready and hypnotically enchanting. The production is crystal clear and does its best to propel the energy of the music.

Guitarists Tyler Szalkowski and Tony Diaz are a perfect duo, wrapping melody and sharp power chords in smart ways. There is a massive amount of pop on this album, but the energy and mayhem behind it is gorgeous and rests somewhere between the punk aesthetic of New Found Glory (“Criminal”) and the pop of All Time Low (“Safe Haven”). Bassist Ryan Graham is thankfully turned up to be heard clearly in every song and adds a noticeable backbone that other bands could only hope for (“Cut Through the Static”). Drummer Evan Ambrosio may be the hidden MVP of the album, as his wall of percussion constantly stole my attention at odd times with thunderous beats (“Mine Is Gold”). Vocalist Derek DiSanio pushes himself to great lengths throughout the record. He finds a great balance between crisp notes and letting his voice struggle to hit the high notes, adding an urgency and envious power.

The best and worst feature of Living Proof is that it is so enamored in pop punk that it fails to carve it’s own path. In fact, comparing the album to All Time Low circa 2010 is almost impossible not to do. The record sounds like a b-side collection of singles ATL forgot to release. This problem could be remedied if the songs had more substance to them, but each line is forged from classic pop punk archetypes. Vague lines about relationships permeate throughout.

The nice thing is that the lyrics fit perfectly together and make you want to shout them as loud as you can. However, there is no weight behind them, such as “Safe Haven” as DiSanio sings, “Congratulations, I’m a wreck again / Messed around, feeling down, thought it was all pretend / I’m realizing I’ve got time to kill so / give me a remedy to lift me up / Until it all falls back just like you said”. There are vague ideas of hope, such as when he sings, “And I feel when you’re looking at me / that you’re far from happy / If only we could wait for the truth / When you know it’s not so dramatic / Let’s cut through the static and be the living, the living proof”.

Living Proof is an album that will absolutely enchant half of its listeners and possibly turn off others hoping for something more than pop punk basics. But that shouldn’t take anything away from what State Champs have accomplished­ – a masterful pop punk album that relishes in every aspect of the genre. This album will potentially dominate the summer season and could potentially revive mainstream interest in the genre if it received the attention it deserves. After this album, I simply can’t wait to see them live at the first possible opportunity.

3.5/5

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 accidentally splattered a girl with gym sweat as she fled from a spider hanging on its web today. Not his fault, but no one was happy about the encounter. Especially the spider. It was crushed by a train and mocked mercilessly by a crowd.

Review: The Longshot – Love Is for Losers

There are two incredibly distinct versions of Billie Joe Armstrong. One writes rock operas that flawlessly meld biting, poetic verses and savage critiques of government. The other just loves writing pop songs. The one constant between the two is that no matter who holds the pen, Armstrong is going to belt out some absolutely killer songs designed to stay in your head. Love Is for Losers by The Longshot, his newest side project, is a band that has fun with rock and isn’t crippled with expectation.

The first thing anyone who listens to The Longshot will wonder, is why this wasn’t released as a Green Day album. The obvious answer is that Green Day is a group that seems to be aiming for higher goals. Their experiment with the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy showed that following up several critically acclaimed rock operas is difficult when the band just wants to release some pop songs without the depth of American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown. Love Is for Losers is the answer.

These songs are fun. Incredibly catchy, and packing the energy of Armstrong’s signature power chords, The Longshot is power pop at its finest. These are party songs that feel instantly familiar to anyone who has been a fan of Armstrong for more than a minute. Traces of each of his ventures can be heard in the album. “Taxi Driver” beckons the ghost of Green Day circa Nimrod. “Turn Me Loose” channels Foxboro Hot Tubs, and I’m sure you can find traces of Pinhead Gunpowder and some Bille + Norah if you look for it.

Bandmates Jeff Matika (bass), David S. Field (drums) and Kevin Preston (guitar) deliever some killer performances, but it is almost impossible not to compare them to Tre Cool or Mike Dirnst. They are obviously influenced by the other members of Green Day, and give as sincere an homage as is possible. While their performance is worthy of the influences, they give Armstrong a chance to write pop songs free of the weight of his main band on his shoulders.

What does stand out is how Armstrong’s songwriting formula shifts just slightly for The Longshot. There is a slight influence of southern rock in the guitar (“Cult Hero”). Hand claps litter the verses (“The Last Time”, “Soul Surrender”) and guitar solos run rampant just because they can. The Longshot also remind me that I miss classic Green Day, before they took on their political edge. Most of these songs could have been pulled off of Nimrod, and it’s actually refreshing to hear something like that again.

Perhaps the only downside (or upside, if you prefer) is that there is nothing lyrical to bite into. These are party songs, designed to be easy to sing along to without thinking about it. For example, the title track, “Love is for Losers” has a chorus of, “Hey kid, love is for losers now, alright / Stupid kid, you’re a loser now, alright”. While it’s nice to be able to sing along to literally any of these songs midway through the first listen, it’s upsetting to know that it is just a tease of Armstrong as a writer.

Love Is for Losers isn’t a reinvention, because it doesn’t need to be. It’s an excuse to write classic power pop songs. The Longshot is essential listening for fans of Green Day. While it is disappointing that the wit and anger that fuels Armstrong’s best writing is nowhere to be seen, songs like these are rarely written anymore. Love Is for Losers may not be anyone’s favorite album, but it’s impossible not to enjoy.

3.5.5

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 wrote this while attempting to eat an apple. It fell off of the table after one bite and rolled under the couch, because why wouldn’t it do just that?