“Shining a light on the darkest places / You know we have to face this now / We have to face this now.” It wouldn’t be surprising if in these lyrics, Mike Herrera – singer and bassist in Washington trio MxPx – was referring to his desire to expose the damp, dingy corners of “pop-punk” where bands like Good Charlotte cower for their credibility in the very shadow of a band with 13 years’ experience, eight albums and a legion of loyal fans all firmly tucked under the members’ studded belts.
Reading MxPx’s website, however, the feeling one gets is not of a bunch of ageing, bitter purists who begrudge their relative obscurity compared to acts like Blink 182, but of three guys who can’t quite believe their luck at still being able (and paid!) to do what they love most – play punk rock.
Yes, there is truth in the fact that without MxPx there would be no Good Charlotte, no Yellowcard, and certainly no New Found Glory, but apart from all that, they deserve the credibility because they’re just bloody good.
Latest album Panic is without a doubt a classic slice of MxPx action. Yes, there are only three chords in most songs, and it’s not groundbreaking in its composition, but there’s no denying the contagious charm to its offering.
Cold Streets highlights this in the form of a memorable slice of driven punk, with the infectious melody gloriously intertwined. The Story, meanwhile, is back to the old school, and I’m talking Pokinatcha days, fused with a little mellowness that makes it all slightly more palatable.
In contrast, the deceptively-titled Wrecking Hotel Rooms is a poor attempt to slow down, while Late Again tackles the oh-so-adolescent theme of being late to meet a date, wait for it, at the school gates.
We are safely back on track by the time Kicking And Screaming blasts out. This is MxPx at nothing short of its best – thrashing drums, swirling guitars and an awesome hook to boot. Furthermore, as the album progresses, it plays out as a combined representation of MxPx’s previous outings, with Grey Skies Turn Blue, for example, a ballad much in the Life In General vein (though once again one that has mellowed a little with age).
Undeniably, the album’s low point is Emotional Anarchist, which shows that even in passing reference pop-punksters should most certainly leave politics to the likes of Tom Morello.
Despite this glitch, in general, Panic is tuneful, catchy and cheerful. It is the latter quality that is the very reason bands like Keane will always have the upper hand on the UK side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, it seems that we’ve neither the quantity of sun nor the jam-packed beaches to warrant the feelgood anthems of pop-punk legends like MxPx being adopted as anthems just yet.