Classic Album Review: Bowling For Soup – Drunk Enough To Dance

Bowling For Soup have been creating the catchiest pop-punk for well over 25 years now. While some people may say that their music has lessened in quality recently, no one can deny that they still have a talent for writing some incredibly catchy hooks. And that ability catapulted them into fame in the early 2000’s, so much that their name is still mentioned amongst the greatest pop-punk bands of that era. There was one album that started all of this success though, and that was 2002’s Drunk Enough To Dance. This album would change their fortunes forever.

Without listening closely enough, this may sound like just your average 21st century pop-punk album. But what’s unique about it is vocalist Jaret Reddick’s ability to create a catchy hook. From the chorus of ‘Emily’ alone, I knew that this would be a memorable album. Every song has something catchy about it, from the first track to the last, and even on incredible bonus track ‘Punk Rock 101’. Are all of the songs perfect? Of course not, but all of them are good enough to stay in your head for the next week or so. And let’s be honest, what more can you ask for? The lyrical side of the album isn’t bad either. Most of the songs have that trademark Reddick humour that Bowling For Soup songs are known for. Occasionally this can come across as childish, but never enough to be a real problem.

Even if the name Drunk Enough To Dance might not be remembered much by pop-punk fans in ten years or so, the songs will definitely stick to people’s memories. The songs are catchy, energetic, and humorous, which is exactly what any pop punk album needs. This album has had a lot more influence, and is a lot better than people give it credit for. I hope it will be listened to for years to come.

Best song: Emily

Score: 8/10

Classic Album Review: Mayday Parade – A Lesson In Romantics

For a decade now, Mayday Parade have been creating incredibly catchy pop-punk. When people thought that it might be getting stale, they surprised everyone with 2015’s incredible Black Lines, a complete change in style. In fact, their music has been quality all the way across their career, putting their name up amongst some of the most famous pop-punk bands of the 2000’s. One album started this entire legacy though, and that was 2007’s A Lesson In Romantics, ten years old this month. And little did they know, this would be the catalyst for many years of great pop-punk.

From the start of the album, it is clear that this album will be full of catchy hooks, thundering guitars and soaring choruses; the key ingredients for any pop-punk album. But something that sets this album apart is then vocalist Jason Lancaster’s voice. As soon as it came in at the start of ‘Jamie All Over’, I knew I was in for a treat. His voice is very rough and raw, but this is why it shines – this works perfectly for showing emotion, and this is definitely an emotional record. Sure there are occasional imperfections in the singing, but these are endearing rather than detracting from the album at all. In every line, you can hear that he is pouring his heart out.

The emotional side of the album adds a lot, but what about the musical side? Well that doesn’t disappoint either. As I mentioned earlier, the choruses are all incredibly catchy, but some of he guitar work is what stands out most in this aspect to me. They found a way to use both distorted and clean guitars in perfect balance, the former providing rhythm and the latter providing melody. The vocal hooks are incredibly memorable too; I mean what pop-punk fan doesn’t know the ‘I could live without you/but without you I’d be miserable at best’ refrain from what is undeniably the most popular song on the record, ‘Miserable At Best’. ‘Jersey’ is almost instantly recognisable too.

In conclusion, A Lesson In Romantics is a pop-punk classic, and will be remembered for years to come among the pop-punk community. Many people consider it to be Mayday Parade’s best album, and while I can’t decide, I know that it is definitely up there amongst the best work they have ever produced. Any song on the album could have been a successful single, the songs are all that good. And while many pop-punk records will fade into obscurity over time, I feel like this one will stay in memory a little longer.

Best song: Jersey

Score: 9/10

Classic Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way

The Red Hot Chili Peppers released what many people considered to be their best ever album in 1999. Californication was a hit that propelled the band into the forefront of the rock world with a great set of catchy songs, defined by the energy of frontman Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea. But how would they follow up this album’s success? They could, of course, release an album of similarly-styled songs to capitalise on the previous album’s popularity. Or maybe make an album of even more easily-accessible songs to push themselves even further into the mainstream. What they ended doing was a change of style, but it was neither of those things. By The Way was a rock revolution.

This album opted for a more melodic sound than the previous album, being led by the beautiful guitar melodies of John Frusciante rather than the energetic bass of Flea. With the exception of a few songs, the songs were a lot slower and focused more on creating a fuller, more beautiful sound. But this wasn’t giving up on their old sound; it was more an evolution of sorts. Each song was masterfully crafted and showed some of vocalist Anthony Kiedis’ best ever lyrics, particularly in ‘Dosed’, a sombre but beautiful ode to Hillel Slovak, the original guitarist of the band, who sadly passed away in 1988 due to drug problems. But not only are the lyrics extremely heartfelt, the guitar in this song is a lesson to anyone who wants to layer several guitar tracks.

While ‘Dosed’ was an evolution for the band, they definitely had callbacks to their older songs, in the form of bass-driven ‘Throw Away Your Television’, and the anthemic ‘Can’t Stop’. Flea leads both of these songs perfectly, using his bass to drive the songs along. He is ever-present in the album, but these represent some of his best work. Songs like these are rare however, giving way to slow ballads and more experimental work. Of this experimental work, ‘On Mercury’ deserves a lot of praise for the inclusion of new instruments, such as the trumpet. It is wonderfully catchy too. Of the slower songs, particularly ‘The Zephyr Song’ and ‘Don’t Forget Me’ stand out. The former experiments with electronic drum sounds to great effect, whereas the latter has the prefect blend of guitar and bass to make it stand out hugely.

To conclude, this blend of material perfectly typified the album. This album was a diverse but perfect departure from Californication that showed the bands ability to make more than just their original brand of funk rock. They pushed themselves even further than they ever had before, and came out with one of the best albums of their long and illustrious career. Whatever type of music you’re into, this album is something you have to listen to.

Best song: Dosed

Score: 10/10

Classic Album Review: Paramore – RIOT!

Ten years ago to this month, an album came out that would go down in pop-punk history. Paramore were already gaining a pretty massive following after a stunning debut, All We Know Is Falling. This album was their sophomore effort, RIOT!. People still quote it as being one of the most influential pop-punk albums to this day, and quite rightly, it catapulted Paramore into fame, reaching the highs of, and eventually surpassing bands such as Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. But how does it hold up today?

Opening track ‘For A Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic’ is just as good as the first time I ever heard it. It is a bomb of melody and vocal expertise, with a fantastically powerful chorus. This is followed by ‘That’s What You Get’, which is one of the singles of the album. Despite being a good song in its own right, it pales in comparison to the opener. Not to say that it’s a bad song, it’s just hard to compete with a chorus of the magnitude of the opener’s. ‘Hallelujah’, however is one of the standout songs of the album. Great guitar work and incredible vocals blend together to create and anthem of a song, and one I’m surprised doesn’t get as much attention as the other three singles. One of those singles, ‘Misery Business’, is up next. And what can I say about it other than that it’s incredible – the anthem of so many people’s teenage years. This is followed by a trio of songs: ‘When It Rains’, ‘Let The Flames Begin’, and ‘Miracle’. They are great songs in their own right, but can blend into each other if you’re not listening closely. The best out of these three is definitely ‘When It Rains’, which slows things down and creates a nice change of pace in the album. The album goes quiet for half a second, and then a faint drum beat is heard, signalling the start of ‘crushcrushcrush’. This, my childhood favourite song, still holds up to this day, sounding sinister yet incredibly catchy. The final stretch of the album is made up of ‘We Are Broken’, a slow, melodic ballad, ‘Fences’, an outstanding, energetic pop-punk anthem, and the final effort, ‘Born For This’, which manages to be almost as powerful as the opener.

It’s really no surprise this album changed pop-punk. It is a great mix of songs, that benefit from Hayley Williams’ creative approach to songwriting. At first look, this album is pure pop-punk, but if you delve deeper within that, you can see many layers of excellent songwriting and instrumental work. The songs all have a coherent sound, but they are very diverse, with a range of styles employed. In conclusion, an incredible album.

Best Song: Fences

Score: 8/10

Classic Album Review: Stadium Arcadium – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Stadium Arcadium is eleven years old this month! That’s eleven years of ‘Dani California’, ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’, ‘Tell Me Baby’ and countless other songs that, if I’m honest, have seemed to be around forever. It has been just over a decade, and this album already feels like a timeless classic, and that’s why I’m reviewing it today.

Now, if you know me, you’ll know I’m not a fan of double albums, let alone ones as long as this. There’s over two hours worth of music across this album, and normally, I’d hate that. I’m all for having short, sweet albums without dragging it out too much. But this album is the one exception to all of this- every song is just too good to leave out! This was John Frusciante’s last work as part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and boy did he leave a legacy with this album. It includes his whole range of guitar playing skills from the smooth acoustic tones of ‘Slow Cheetah’ to the fiery energy of ‘So Much I’, not to mention what I believe could be his best work ever, the 5-minute guitar masterclass that is ‘Wet Sand’, showcasing all he has to offer. Chad Smith was also on his usual form on this record, highlighted in particular in a fabulous drum solo in ‘Hump De Bump’. The vocals were also a high point, with Anthony Kiedis going back some of his rap-rock roots in songs like ‘Tell Me Baby’, while hitting new melodic highs in ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’. And last of all, Flea. I can’t even pick out a selection of songs for him, because his bass work is so strong throughout the whole album that picking favourites would seem unfair. I’ve mentioned so many songs already but I also have to mention the stellar ’21st Century’, ‘Readymade’, and ‘Death of a Martian’, just for the final monologue that still leaves hair standing up on my back.

In conclusion, this is an incredible album. This may be a controversial opinion, but I believe it is the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ best work to date, drawing on influences from all over their careers to create a true masterpiece of an album. If you haven’t listened to it yet, what are you waiting for?!

Best Song: Wet Sand

Score: 10/10