The term punk-pop is an anomaly. Punk is not and could never be pop in essence. It doesn’t need to be. The glories offered by the Sex Pistols, X-Ray Specs, The Damned et al had no need or want for it.
However, there has been of late, a trend to market saccharine-sweetened guitar-based pop under the guise of “punk-pop” in the hope of appealing to the 13-year olds who might buy such records. Busted are example of this atrocity, and so unfortunately, are Fall Out Boy.
Formed just a year ago in Chicago, they garnered attention by putting MP3s on to the internet, and subsequently signed to indie label Fueled By Ramen.
This debut LP starts promisingly with the oddly titled Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today and immediately the crashing drums and smart lead guitar riff intrigue, but unfortunately it’s short-lived. As soon as the vocal enters, I’m disappointed. It is syrupy in production, and although the undemanding and vaguely catchy melody jaunts along pleasantly, the vocal grates.
Dead On Arrival starts well too. The guitars are heavy and riff-laden, and even though there’s no grit or dirt, it holds the listener’s attention. At least it does for the first 10 seconds, then the vocals enter and again interest is lost. It’s not a bad song, but just unappealing. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stumph has a decent voice, but the overtly American bent to it does not appeal.
Grant Theft Autumn is slightly stronger than the other tracks and stands as a contender for a future single release. The harmonies and an interesting vocal cadence are vaguely enjoyable and the hooks do their job, at least a little bit anyway. The Pros And Cons of Breathing and Calm Before Storm also just hint at hazy appeal but the little heart this album might have is just too pop, too sweet.
Take This To Your Grave continues in the same musical vein throughout. The tempo does not alter at all – the mood is eternally optimistic and has a sunny upbeat feel that might appeal to the youth market.
However, the listener might feel that this is an LP of one long generic song, impersonal and cloying, not touching. There is a lack of musical charm that is disappointing. It’s shiny in production but insubstantial in essence. Call it pop, call it skate-pop if you must, but in no way, shape or form, could it ever be called punk.