Album Reviews — June 3, 2016 at 10:00

POP-PUNK: From Basements to Beaches by Alive & Well

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Pop punk’s not dead. Despite its association with attracting rebellious teenage hooligans who can’t wait to get out of their hometown (hey, no judgment, this was totally me in high school), pop punk has power. It brings fans together, united in figuring out where you belong, nonconformity, and screaming along to gut-wrenching, relatable lyrics at concerts. Pop punk had its golden renaissance in the early 2000s, as iconic bands such as All Time Low, Mayday Parade, Blink-182, Simple Plan, New Found Glory, Good Charlotte, and Jimmy Eat World (basically any band you could see at Warped Tour), soared in popularity. Nowadays, the genre is no longer as mainstream as it used to be, but there are plenty of amazing new additions, such as Bayside, Knuckle Puck, and The Wonder Years. So long as we defend pop punk, we will continue to have bands that produce catchy, high-energy songs that still speak to our teenage selves.

One such band is Alive & Well, a pop punk band out of San Diego, California.What began as an acoustic project has now become a classic display of familiar chords and punchy lyrics. From Basements to Beaches is a 4-song EP, and definitely showcases all that pop punk has to offer. Using the theme of having a positive outlook on life, Alive & Well is taking an optimistic spin on a genre that can get negatively pigeonholed as dark, angsty, and emo. Pop punk does not have to be emo, and emo music does not always fall into pop punk (though Blink-182’s “I  Miss You” is pretty darn depressing). Alive & Well’s sophomore release is representative of this distinction.

From the first chords of “Transplant Rejection,” the opening track of the EP, you know that the song will tick every box of the pop punk checklist: the theme of hometown escape, singalong-worthy chorus and bridge, and aggressive drums and guitars. The following song, “No Winter In The West,” starts off with promising vocals over subdued music, but I found myself slightly disappointed by what came after the crashing guitar solo; Matt Vernon’s vocals could stand to be stronger and more powerful, in order to match the impressive instrumentals, but otherwise, his voice is excellent, especially when used in call-and-response bits. On the entire EP, the instrumentals truly shine, with catchy riffs and head-banging beats. The one downfall of this EP is that it left me wanting something more, something to set Alive & Well apart from all the other bands out there. To be fair, on a four track EP, there is only so much that you can do with the space you have, so I look forward to seeing what Alive & Well puts out in the future; they clearly have the skill, musical ability, and talent.

I will say that, despite having a close place to my heart, I find pop punk to be a rather intimidating genre, in the sense that in order to be successful, you need to be fairly distinctive. For example, I can listen to thirty seconds of a song and know that it’s Fall Out Boy, just because of Patrick Stump’s voice. Same deal with My Chemical Romance (RIP) and Gerard Way, The Wonder Years and Dan “Soupy” Campbell, Blink-182 and Tom DeLonge. Entering a genre in which so many great, iconic artists already exist, and trying to find your place within, is what Alive & Well is attempting to do. If that’s not classic pop punk, then I don’t know what is.

4 out of 5 stars

Must-Listen Tracks: “Transplant Rejection,” “259 Park Drive”

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