I’m not trying to say it’s easy / but I’m trying to say it’s fine
Pop-punk has seen a weird sort of revival in the last four years. On one side, you’ve got peak 2000’s bands releasing comeback albums – from Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock and Roll in 2013, Green Day’s Revolution Radio released just this past October – and on the other you’ve got fresh faces entering the game with music that seeks to at once stand on the shoulders of its predecessors and reach for something different entirely. New Pop Punk is more surreal, more dreamy, more gay, but still tackles the same subjects – and does so just as bluntly and honestly – as that which came before.
Sorority Noise shares the same origin story with many pop punk bands: “We started as a joke,” Cameron Boucher says in an interview with Stereo Gum. The band retains that absurdity and humor in their music, but they don’t let it soften the blows of their crude and anguished lyrics. Their newest release, You’re Not As _____ As You Think, out yesterday, covers topics ranging from mental health and trauma to the loss of a friend with the playful dude-ness we’ve come to expect from pop-punk. In an album that navigates the loss of several of his close friends – many of whom took their own lives – Boucher sings “It’s been a while since I’ve seen God / and I’m not trying to lead him on / but he’s always trying to fuck me / to the tune of my favorite song” with a frank, morbid and hilarious keening (for which pop punk singers are famous) that would make Jesse Lacey proud. Raised Catholic, Boucher takes up the mantle left behind from Gerard Way and Ryan Ross of songwriters confronting death, life, and Catholicism in the space of a few 3-minute pop punk songs.
In many ways the album is filling the hole Brand New left behind – both the sound and the subjects of You’re Not As ____As You Think echo Deja Entendu and Tell All Your Friends and the religious overtones are clear successors of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. “Where Are You?” pulls a rhetorical move used often in Brand New’s discography; In the lines, “Don’t tell me how to live my life I’m going to be fine / Cameron, how can I help? / Well you can meet me in hell and take care of yourself” and “”Jess, I still taste you, thus reserve my right to hate you,” Boucher and Lacey (respectively) open a dialogue with themselves in their songs, reminding us that much of pop-punk’s songwriting is built on personal experience and, in Brand New’s case, personal vendetta. But You’re Not As____As You Think gives us something that is rather rare in the genre: a tightly- and artfully-constrained narrative. This isn’t a concept album (Welcome To The Black Parade, American Idiot). While those are, in their own way, built on personal experience – as arguably all art is – a narrative album like Sorority Noise’s is utterly personal, told from a fixed point of view, and intimately focused: this is an album about a man whose friends have died.
As a genre, pop-punk has gotten flack from pretty much every corner of music criticism; Yet, in 2017 – 23 years after it hit the mainstream with Dookie – pop punk remains one of the few genres that gives us what we want: fun upbeat music meant to be played fast and loud with songwriting that isn’t afraid to flick the knife. You’re Not As ____ As You Think delivers on all of these.
“A Portrait of”, “First Letter from St. Sean”, “Disappeared”
Modern Baseball, Brand New