Review Roundup: Campaign, Chalk Talk, Handguns, and I Call Fives

Campaign – It Likes to Party

Pseudo-Hot Water Music acts have been plentiful in the past few years, so naturally, a lot of bands have dabbled with different takes on the Florida natives’ emo-infused punk rock. Bands like Polar Bear Club and Daylight pushed on the melodic hardcore and pop-punk aspect, while bands like Castevet (though they are definitely more comparable to American Football) accentuated atmosphere by blending in post-rock and ambient music.

With their debut EP, H1N1, Campaign played a similar card as the latter band, but it just came off as contrived and thus poorly-written; it is almost as if they wrote music for two separate bands, thought why the fuck not? and just threw the two together. Their latest EP, It Likes to Party, doesn’t necessarily accomplish what they originally tried to do, but in putting less effort into sounding different, they seem headed in the right direction. It is much more focused, as can be seen with the stronger hooks on songs like “Best Luck” and “Blue Pills and Whiskey”, compared to virtually anything on H1N1; “Bored to Death” also exemplifies a push in the right direction by Campaign, with regards to succeeding with the post-rock aspect of their music they seem so keen on incorporating. Perhaps it’s just the EP’s superior production that propels it past its predecessor in quality, as this band benefits from the bigger, more aggressive sound on It Likes to Party – despite what their other influences may be, this is a hardcore band at heart, so Josh Kimmel’s howls should be as loud and powerful as they sound.

It is hard to say where Campaign will end up, by merely basing their fate on an EP. They could possibly surprise one in the future, and pursue the atmospheric route efficiently, as they demonstrated briefly on “Bored to Death”. Regardless, only time will really show if this band has more in them than barely skimming the surface, and  putting slightly different spins on Hot Water Music songs.


Chalk Talk – The Food Chain

With the overload of average in this roundup, Chalk Talk are like ice-cold lemonade to this bitter reviewer’s lips. It’s just a taste with only six short songs onThe Food Chain EP, but the taste is distinctive enough for one to know what the full glass of LP will be like.

Sure, Chalk Talk proudly wear their influences on their sleeves, but they wear them well and they don’t give a shit if you think otherwise. They are clearly a bunch of dudes having the time of their lives and loving the Kinsella brothers, the whole EP through. Indeed, it’s hard to miss the twinkly American Footballesque instrumentation and the quirky comic styling of Cap’n Jazz, and lo and behold there’s surf in there too! However simple the formula for their success may be, it is exceptionally executed.

There are little things like the fresh guitar tone and the relatively lo-fi feel of the recordings, which work so well in unison with the surf influence, that it puts the band in a realm of their own. Though surf is quite commonly incorporated by modern bands in various styles, it is not merely this that separates Chalk Talk from other bands. There are surely tons of emo bands putting surf riffs into songs, but none make the finished product like Chalk Talk. At this point, it will have to be stellar, but one can have faith that this band will at least put out an equally good LP as The Food Chain EP.


Handguns – Anywhere But Home

With powerful pop-punk works like The Wonder Years’ The Upsides and Transit’s Stay Home EP making their mark this year, it isn’t hard to imagine that a good number of releases would be overshadowed by their sheer greatness – Handguns’ Anywhere But Home is one of these releases. Since there has already been mention of good and bad, this album isn’t bad by any means, but there is a great deal that bars it from greatness –  mainly, its lack of what made the aforementioned albums so good.

It’s fairly well-written, but lacks any interesting hooks – the closest they come to that is with the very Brand New bridge of “Last Year”. Otherwise, there is nothing particularly memorable, either lyrically or musically. The biggest issue with pop-punk in general is that there are so many bands doing the same thing that it’s difficult for any of it to remain interesting, after so many listens. Even the aforementioned bands don’t bring anything particularly new to the genre, unless it is conceptually or lyrically, but have small things that help them stand out – such as vocals, as both of the bands’ vocalists are fairly atypical for the genre they perform in.

Though there is not much else to say about Handguns, perhaps that will only remain the case with this EP – it is, after all, just an EP. Realistically, it is hard to believe that this band will amount to anything remarkable, but one can never know. After all, The Wonder Years went from a very average debut with Get Stoked On It! to the aforesaid The Upsides, so anything is possible.


I Call Fives – Bad Advice

Like Handguns, I Call Fives are barely more than your average pop-punk band. It’s a given they are different than the former band, but they hardly achieve anything more in their poppier stream of pop-punk.

Like a lot of the more mainstream bands in the genre, such as Paramore, they don’t give themselves much character with their lyrics. Pop-punk takes glory in nostalgia, and telling the stories that make one who they are – granted, it is typically done in a very exaggerated, but comical fashion, but it’s what gives the style its charm. I Call Fives do just that, but they don’t seem to do it earnestly – lines like I hope this sound, is the elevator music on your way to hell barely scratch the surface of making a meaningful connection with the listener, as they are so lightly-loaded and impersonal. Funny enough, their music isn’t much different either, as it also plays along to the schemes of pop-punk, but is completely content with just chilling in the back of the bandwagon.

I Call Fives are that kid in your high school who always hung out with the shit-disturbers, but was never a part of the action, and simply served as a prop for setting the scene of the posse. But pop-punk doesn’t have to adhere to its pseudo-rebellious stereotype to function as a musical form, and until bands like I Call Fives learn this, they will be nothing more than average.


One Comment

  1. Alex wrote:

    Speaking of Castevet, one of you guys should really review the OTHER Castevet’s debut, Mounds of Ash 😛

    It’s a crazy good album and reviews of it are popping up all over–was surprised hearwax yet hadn’t!

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