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Most of us remember the nascent years of pop-punk through a haze not unlike the one that accompanies a few too many drinks. We remember there were some bad decisions, but it’s hard to recall exactly what went wrong, and it’s painful to try to bring it up too soon.
New Found Glory, a band whose angsty, love-lorn lyrics have long made them a favorite among high schoolers across America, try to escape from this haze with their new release “Not Without A Fight,” throwing off the mantle of pop-punk (one which they were only awarded de facto) and the glitzy sheen of pop production that denoted it. “Not Without a Fight” aspires to a grittier, harder sound. But while this approach is not without some success, ultimately the album sags under the weight of its overused clichés and utterly insipid lyricism.
Right from the start, the album smacks of NFG’s new sound. “Right Where We Left Off” barrels forth with heavily distorted, amped up guitars and dizzying cymbal crashes that don’t seem to actually have anything to do with the song’s rhythm. The first few tracks ring with an anthemic quality fueled by simple, catchy guitar riffs and en masse, screamed choral parts.
While there are no clear standout singles, tracks like “Listen to Your Friends” and “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” sound like they could find some mainstream success in addition to pleasing the legions of NFG fans who still cry out for albums full of endemically inane subjects and lyrics.
The single best track of the album is “Truck Stop Blues,” which espouses a more minimalist approach, foregoing the occasionally heavy-handed instrumentality of the other tracks to highlight lead singer Jordan Pudnik’s high-pitched but attractive vocals. These vocals have been trimmed of the nasal stylings with which Pudnik intoned previous albums and work exceptionally convincingly over the track’s shifting tempos, heavy reverb, and bottomless chorus.
But while it works when plucked out from the rest of the album, even “Truck Stop Blues” falls prey to the same pratfalls, which will continue to plague NFG as long as they remain rooted in making adolescent love songs—and maybe beyond.
Every single song on this album is about a failed or failing relationship, and while this has long been constant fodder for musicians, New Found Glory have almost always sung about nothing but. They’ve long since run out of creative or interesting ways to talk about the subject, if these were ever accessible to them. It’s difficult to even cull exemplary lyrics, since almost every word that the group records is totally inane, but by the time the album progresses through it’s blurry B-side to the penultimate “This Isn’t You,” the simile “Your words break me down like a wrecking ball / I’m so sick of it all” will seem like a godsend.
Other gems like “It’s time that I rain on your parade / Watch as all your hopes explode to landmines” on the second track, “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down,” are so commonplace that it’s hard to harp on anything else. Granted, there are some interesting narrative angles, as in “Listen to Your Friends,” where the protagonist wakes up from a coma and tries to unravel what happened to him (I’ll give you a hint—it involves a note in his pocket which reads “I don’t ever want to see you again”), but most of the lyrical content vacillates between drivel and schmaltz.
Yet in order to maintain commercial success, perhaps NFG need do little more than tweak their music for an era unenthused with pop-punk and make angst-ridden songs about abortive romances. After all, there will always be an audience for this type of music, and while they may not expand their fan base much, New Found Glory can at least escape the haze of the late 90s by reaching out again and again to the new manifestation of the same audience.
—Staff writer Joshua J. Kearney can be reached at email@example.com.
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