Reviews from the Old Site, pt. 1

These were written back in 2008-09, which explains the comment about Yellowcard being broken up and why I thought Fall Out Boy kept getting worse and worse.

Music: My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade (2006)

Okay, I’ll admit it.  When I first got this album, I didn’t understand what it was all about.  I read a lot of other reviews saying how good it was, but even after three listens through and wanting to like it, I couldn’t stand listening to it.  Maybe it was one of those albums that sort of grow on you with repeated listens, but I felt like it wasn’t making any progress.  Flash forward a year and a half, I give it another try and bam, just like that, I’m in love.  So their upcoming albums is already in the works, but oh well, better late than never is what they always say.

When I was first introduced to the band, I fell in love right away with the song “I’m Not Okay” and the rest of the songs from their previous album “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.”  What I loved about that album was the gritty, dirty way it sounded and how it was loud and in your face.  Maybe part of the reason why I didn’t like The Black Parade at first was because I still wanted more of what made Three Cheers so fun to listen to.  The Black Parade drops the gritty feel in exchange for something bigger.

Reviewers constantly comment on how it sounds like the 70’s, or the “Golden Age of Rock & Roll.”  I have no idea what that means, but I can tell you that I have never heard an album as big as this.  Things are blown completely out of proportion, and that’s what makes the album so amazing.  You can’t listen to this album without turning the volume up until you can feel the floor rumble under your feet.

Though there is a lot of added instrumentation besides the standard guitar, bass, and drums, the guitar is probably the biggest improvement from the previous album.  Even with distortion, they manage to make the guitar sound so clean, it’s really a nice treat to listen to.  The vocals have also changed a little bit.  It’s still the same old Gerard Way, but he shows some restraint as it seems he doesn’t scream as often as he used to, while remaining as passionate as ever.  The lyrics, while more diverse, haven’t made much of an improvement in my opinion, but they’re still smart and fun.

Standout tracks are “The End,” “Dead,” “This Is How I Disappear,” “Welcome to the Black Parade,” “I Don’t Love You,” “Mama,” “Teenagers,” and “Famous Last Words”…  basically every other song on the album.  However, as good as these songs are, all the other ones aren’t very far behind, as every song on the album is listenable, which is hard to say for a lot of albums these days.  I never have to press skip, but I never have to put one song on repeat, either.  This is the kind of album that you listen in full, not in fragments like putting it on shuffle with the rest of your music collection.  Though several of these songs would do well separately, it’s when you put them all together that makes this album so good.

Music: Thursday – Common Existence (2009)

Thursday’s fifth full-length studio album “Common Existence” dropped onto the shelves on February 17, 2009, kicking off the new year with a blast. You might be thinking, “Thursday? Isn’t that a day of the week?” Here’s a history lesson for you, then. Thursday formed in the members’ high school years in 1997 in the city of New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 2001, Thursday’s second full-length, “Full Collapse,” pioneered an entire genre of underground post-hardcore rock. 2003’s “War All The Time,” their first major-label release, garnered massive praise from fans and critics alike. After 2006’s “A City By The Light Divided,” a good album plagued by horrible production, 2008’s split EP with the Japanese post-hardcore/screamo band Envy showed promise. Which brings us to their latest album, “Common Existence.”

Fans’ doubts about Thursday after “City” will be shattered when they hear “Common Existence,” an album that pushes the experimental boundaries of the band while still remaining faithful to their original sound. Standout tracks of the already very consistent album include “Resucitation of a Dead Man,” probably their heaviest song to date, “As He Climbed the Dark Mountain,” a highly atmospheric song previously recorded on the Envy Split, and “You Were the Cancer,” an instant favorite among fans for its intensity.

Geoff Rickly’s renowned vocals are filled with urgency as his singing ranges from quiet whispers to climactic screams. Guitarists Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla create a vastly atmospheric sound with their intricate melodies and heavy chord riffs. Tim Payne’s ambitious bass guitar isn’t afraid to take the foreground. From the softer ballad-like tunes to the extremely heavy tracks, drummer Tucker Rule seamlessly keeps the rhythm flowing. Andrew Everding’s work on keyboards and synthesizers add to the textures of the album. Rickly’s dark and metaphoric lyrics range from being brought back from the dead to having friends in the armed forces.

As amazing as this album is, it definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s not like these guys are playing radio-friendly, infectiously catchy and energetic pop rock to get on the Grammys next year. If you’re already familiar with the band, or even just the genre, do yourself a favor and get this album immediately. If you aren’t familiar with the genre and feel like expanding your musical bubble, I’d recommend Thursday in a heartbeat. But before you venture out on your own to foreign lands, here are a few words of advice: listen with an open mind.

Music: New Found Glory – Not Without a Fight (2009)

Over the last few years, pop-punk fans have grown weary. After releasing one magical album, bands of the genre, Fall Out Boy and The Ataris, to name just a couple, would then get worse and worse with every album that followed. Some bands, such as Yellowcard and The Starting Line, have broken up altogether, leaving behind thousands of loyal fans worldwide. All the while, the scene has become tainted by bands that cared more about their looks than their synthesizer-ridden music, and the thousands of rabid pre-teen female fans that flocked around them. The future of the genre never looked so bleak. And yet, there’s still hope.

Blink 182 are back together.

But wait, there’s more. Just one month after Blink 182 announced their reunion at the Grammys this year, New Found Glory comes back swinging with a new album produced by none other than Blink 182’s very own Mark Hoppus. After they released their fifth studio album Coming Home back in 2006, which sounded more like October than July, New Found glory’s new album Not Without A Fight goes back to their old sound that made them a staple in the genre. Vocalist Jordan Pundik said that they “wanted to go in there and write a super catchy, fun record that’s heavy and upbeat… bringing [fans] back to what made them like New Found Glory to begin with.” And that’s exactly what they did.

When bands say that they’ll return to their “old sound,” it never turns out as good as we’d hope. However, New Found Glory is an exception. The lyrics about romances typical of those you’d experience in high school are so cheesy that you’d wish you’ll never grow up. Jordan Pundik’s singing is still just as nasally high-pitched as always, which is a good sign for longtime fans, and a bit of a turn-off for others. While the choruses are as catchy as ever, even the verses can be just as easily sung along to, and you won’t have to wait until the chorus to start tapping your foot along to the beat.

Mark Hoppus does an outstanding job producing, as the record sounds reminiscently raw, but not too raw or too over-produced. The album is filled with harmonizing and gang vocals. The catchy power-chord driven guitar riffs are heavier than you’d expect from a typical pop-punk record, but still sound like New Found Glory. The drums provide quick-paced beats, and the bass goes along perfectly. Fans who were afraid the band would fall like their comrades would have their fears vanquished in just seconds of the first track, and every song that follows is as good as the first.

In an album with no filler tracks, where the songs are so consistently good and likable, it’s hard to find any standouts. My personal favorites are “Truck Stop Blues,” “Tangled Up,” “Reasons,” and the album’s first single, “Listen to Your Friends.” Blink 182 may be back together, but that’s not the only thing that will bring old fans back to the genre. With their new album, New Found Glory shows that pop-punk isn’t going anywhere. At least, not without a fight.

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