Defend Pop …. Punk???

So everyone’s heard those three words that make my skin crawl “Defend Pop-Punk,” now before I get bombarded by xxSuperPop-Punkerxx for slamming her favorite band, this has nothing to with Man Overboard, I like them. This has everything to do with one simple question that I get asked whenever I bring up Pop-Punk, and that’s, “What IS Pop-Punk?” So it sounds stupid, I know, but think about it, everyone from Green Day to Transit to Four Year Strong are considered Pop-Punk, and I’m not sure about you, but to me, that makes no sense at all. Now again I’m not slamming anyone, I love each of those bands equally, except for Transit, I haven’t given them a shot yet much to the dismay of my significant other. All that I’m saying is that there’s got to be a line somewhere, and why the hell hasn’t it been drawn yet.

I’m personally a 90’s kid, Nirvana all way, I have an RHCP tattoo on my wrist and I still think Bass refers to an actual instrument rather than something that should at some point “drop.” The thing about 90’s music was that it was relatively well defined, you had your grunge and you knew it was grunge, you had your punk and you knew it was punk, every now and again you’d get a band that bitch-slapped those defining lines and that’s cool, that’s what music needs, what music doesn’t need is a band hoarding mindset that I’ve experienced in Pop-Punk. When I first joined a Pop-Punk band and got deeper into the scene I started to realize that EVERYTHING was Pop-Punk, from Cartel to Bayside, I even had a dude tell me that Attack! Attack! was a Pop-Punk band once. I’m not opposed to this for the sake of being opposed to it, or writing about it because it pisses me off, I’m writing about because it feels like without a defining line of separation between genres, a lot of kids are going to feel nervous when exploring other genres … AND because it pisses me off.

I was 15 and into Slipknot, big time, little by little I somehow got into Trapt, for those of you who don’t know that’s like loving The Devil Wears Prada and then listening to New Found Glory. Naturally I was afraid to tell my friends about it because, well because I was a metal head. So imagine if Slipknot and Trapt were both considered “Super-Gigaflux-Hypermetal,” for the sake of argument, now it might seem like that might be cool, like maybe now I won’t get picked on for listening to Trapt AND Slipknot. Well, yes and no, yes because yea, I won’t get picked on, but no because if Trapt and Slipknot are both the same genre than what the hell isn’t “Super-Gigaflux-Hypermetal” and when I start listening and experimenting with that, then I’m REALLY tempting the Gods of childhood bullying. See what I’m trying to say?

If genre surfing is a normal occurrence then, I assume, more often than not, less people will be frightened of doing it openly and more people will be exposed to more music.

I’m not one to identify a problem and then do nothing about it, so I devised a solution. From now on, in this blog, I will refer to Pop-Punk like most people refer to Ska, in three generations (see, there’s a method to my madness). The list is as follows::

Generation 1: 90’s-esq Pop-Punk, I.E. blink 182, Green Day, New Found Glory.

Generation 2: “Commercial” Pop-Punk, I.E. The Wonder Years, Major League, Handguns, The Story So Far

Generation 3: Indie inspired Pop-Punk, I.E. Transit, Man Overboard

…….. Four Year Strong is Easycore, get over it.

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Track by Track Review: Patronize Me: Darkest Shade of Blue EP

January 2012 and Perth Amboy locals Patronize Me release their maiden effort Darkest Shade of Blue EP.

Patronize Me @ The Basement in Perth Amboy, NJ

Everyone is tired of Pop-Punk, there I said it, and if you agree with me, even a tiny bit, you should really check out Patronize Me. These guys ARE the new wave, they’re Pop-Punk influenced, NOT inspired, and can go a long way in opening eyes to another side of music that I haven’t heard anything from in a while.

The opening track of Darkest Shade is “Give Up” which, given it’s softer disposition, is a surprisingly catchy song and really highlights vocalist/guitarists Patrick Minogue’s vocal versatility and indie inspired guitar playing. Initially hard to detect is Arcadio Rivera’s subtle but precise keyboard work that, along with Patrick’s Muse inspired vocals, carry the song and guided, rather than forced me, as a listener, to really feel what the song is about. It isn’t without blemishes though; the awkward interlude before the final chorus seems a bit sloppy at times before fixing itself and overall providing a taste of the other side of Patronize Me that we hear more of in their title track “The Darkest Shade of Blue” and the closing track of the EP “The Last Bridge.”

Now before you even go out and illegally download this CD, I’ve got to warn you all, “The Darkest Shade of Blue,” is probably going to be one of the most interesting tracks you’ve heard in a long time, perfectly mixing Pop-Punk with an Alt-Rock sound that’ll make your jaw drop and curse yourself for not thinking of it first, or maybe it’s just me. Starting with a quick drum solo and then lending itself to a guitar complete with Pop-Punk-esq triplets and start-stops that seem to melt into a mid-90s blues track, right of the bat you know this is something special. Filled with great bass work and the same triplets and start-stops throughout this is just an overall amazing composition. Even the guitar and bass solos seem to fit perfectly together, and from a musicians standpoint, that’s a hard thing to do, it’s obvious that these guys have a lot of musical chemistry and know each other pretty well as musicians. The only honest downside to the track are the keys that feel a little out of place in the forefront of the song whenever they show up, during the production process it might have been a better idea for them to have been more in the background of the song like they are in “Give Up,” as opposed to being the loudest things in the musical field, it just sounds a bit off, not bad, just misguided.

“Just wait … and You’ll See:” initially I was very turned off and disappointed in this song solely because the vocals seem to be in the same key as in the opening track, and in a bands first five song EP ever produced, you almost expect each song to be as different as they can be while maintaining that sound that sets it apart apart from the rest. But then I got over it. In  the 90s with Cobain’s monotone vocals and today with A Day To Remember’s every-song-on-the-album-in-the-same-key style of writing, songs sounding slightly the same isn’t too much a problem, but rather a pitfall to try and avoid whenever possible. Vocal key aside, the song itself really gives the band a personality, after listening to the entire track I knew who these guys were and what they stood for. The bouncy guitar break about midway through the song seemed a bit random, but that’s in no way a bad thing, unlike Patrick’s repetition of the word “sick” shortly after that,which WAS random in a bad way, and a bit awkward to listen to.

I’ve got a little story for you, writer sits down in a smokey, hemp filled room with his friends to listen to and review a CD for his blog, writer blasts music and everyone shuts up and starts grooving, that’s exactly what happened to me when I turned on Patronize Me’s next track off of Darkest Shade, “The Best of Solitude.” Immediately I was bombarded with “Who are these guys?” and “This is the kinda s**t I’m talkin’ about.” It seemed like everyone had something good to say about this song and it’s all because of groove dropped by bassist Alberto Roa and complemented flawlessly by drummer Tony Bonilla and Patrick’s guitar. While writing this review I had to restart this track about 20 times, half because of friendly requests by people in the room, and half because I was enjoying myself way too much. This track, 10/10, no question, by this point in the EP Patrick’s vocals are so unique and dominating that I’m anticipating seeing these guys live just to find out if he sounds the same in person. Everything in this song blends together just the way it should, from the keys to the drums and guitar and bass and especially the vocals. All in all, this track just cannot get enough praise from me, top shelf boys, top shelf.

We’ve arrived at the final song on the album fittingly titled “The Last Bridge”. So I play this guy and I hear some very nicely written piano, and some pseudo-experimental drums and then BAM, distortion, muffled vocals, grooving bass, a blast of power that this EP was missing to give it everything an Alt-Rock aficionado needs to validate Patronize Me as a force to be reckoned with. Just as fast as it starts the distortion and power ends and Patrick’s unique voice forces it’s way in with a note that may be a bit too high for him at the moment, but still sounds pleasing overall. Just as in “Give Up” Arcadio manages to play perfectly in the pocket and deserves an honorable mention for the intro and outro of the song.

CD over, I find myself in awe. I started this review with the intention of trying to pick out the great from the good, and I ended up having to force myself into finding what was wrong with most of the tracks. In the span of five short songs I went from thinking this was an EP made by just another band, into respecting every member of Patronize Me so much more than I already did. Every slight hiccup the EP has ends up as just a forgettable little flaw in an otherwise great effort by a band truly doing their own thing and seeming to not care about what anyone else thinks. If you want to listen to some Patronize Me or give them a thank-you-for-being-awesome post just stop by their Facebook page (opens in new tab) and show them some love, until next time, peace.

Artist: Patronize Me

Go Listen To: The Best of Solitude

Final Word: Alt-Rock gods beware.

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