Vinyl Vlog 003

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The great musical flaw which ultimately led to the downfall of the whole pop punk/melodic hardcore wave which broke bands like Green Day, The Offspring, NOFX and Rancid in the Nineties was that, eventually, the biggest, most successful bands eventually got bored and began pushing a few boundaries to see what else they could accomplish. Granted, some of them didn't venture too far – but it was enough that vans began to disperse in several different directions at once, leaving mid-level groups like Less Than Jake, Bouncing Souls, Pennywise and innumerable others to either tough up and get louder to hold listeners' attention, start frantically grabbing for new sounds and novelties to incorporate in hopes of keeping listeners stimulated, or sink into a mire of obscurity. It was kind of sad when that bubble burst – a lot of bands bit the dust all at once while the major players were off indulging their jones to test limits – but happily The Stereo State either skipped that chapter in their copy of the Punk History book or figured it had been just long enough since the good times ground to a halt that punks sick of the nu-metallic and overly aggressive sound of “new hardcore” might be interested in hearing some new stuff which remembers a great old paradigm. Crossing Canyons is The Stereo State's second EP and their best offering to date and actually has a shot at making a big impression on listeners now, because it simply plays to those old forms which were abandoned by the second wave greats (perfectly poppy but roughed up vocals, pogo-ready rhythms and solid, scorching and thick guitars) and plays them out with heart, not irony.

Listeners will discover just how much they missed a sound like The Stereo State's from the moment “Across The Susquehanna” speeds in to open the EP's A-side and wins hearts before blazing out again. Here, thick and ham-fisted guitars set an indestructible and chugging but hummable pattern (not far from Less Than Jake's old stuff, to be honest) driven home by a genuinely propulsive rhythm section. It feels solid and defiantly poppy, but the thing which will win listeners and makes this sound so memorable is singer Andy Frongillo. With a husky voice that will cause listeners to imagine that he must look like all 6'8” and 350 lbs of Pennywise bassist Fletcher Dragge, Frongillo stakes his place immovably at the front of each song on this EP. How the music just seems to orbit around the singer's vocals will win listeners easily enough, but the band proves quickly that there is more to them than just their singer's imposing presence after “Across The Susquehanna” lets out and the descending guitar figure of “Beachball” pipes up. That song proves its predecessor wasn't just a fluke and actually goes further as it features even poppier vocals and an even tighter dynamic and seals the deal for those already hooked; the leaner and scruffier guitars which factor heavily into the running of “American Bones” won't phase listeners, they'll just be in love.

The A-side of this 10'' EP wins listeners over hands down, but the B-side is what guarantees they'll stay around and wait eagerly for a full-length to appear. The confrontational bent (exemplified in the lines “Where were you? Nowhere to be found”) of “Say It Again” is precisely the kind of pointed, aggressive questioning that has been missing from melodic hardcore so far this decade and feels revelatory when listeners receive it here, and the exact same presence and power reverberates through both “On The Next Time” and “The Flood.” The result is great and could actually have those who encounter it questioning if this EP wasn't mis-sequenced; some will same it actually sounds better if one puts the B-side before A.

Even if a listener plays this EP from front to back or back to front repeatedly though, the effect will be the same regardless; they'll still want more. The EP almost feels like a tease that feels unsubstantial – not because the songs are skimpy, just because they're just that good but there's only six. With it out now, it almost seems inevitable that fans will start to multiply unchecked for The Stereo State after they hear Crossing Canyons, and you'll want to be one.



Crossing Canyons
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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