So, something new for the reviews section: I review The Unlovables side of the ‘Reunion Show’ split and Read Hard reviews the Dirt Bike Annie side:
The Unlovables side
The Unlovables, like The Ergs!, were a short-lived, seminal band that came out of the hit-filled, mid-00s New York pop-punk scene. They made two fantastic records, one of which (Crushboyfriendheartbreak) I would rank in my favourite ten pop-punk albums ever. Almost ten years post-Heartsickle, The Unlovables returned and released a new split EP with Dirt Bike Annie. Comebacks are always shit, right? If they are not cash grabs, they are dull affairs, with the band losing that original spark and energy that made them so good in the first place? Nope, not in this case. This is The Unlovables on top of their game, basically as good as they ever been, but they have also progressed and aren’t just churning out CBH vol. 2. This EP is the rare sound of a band capturing what made them so good in the first place, years after their last release, while simultaneously avoiding producing a carbon copy of their ‘classics’.
So yes: the woah-ohs are here, the back-up harmonies are here, the hook-filled choruses are here, the idealistic love-lorn lyrics are here. Check, check, check and check. However, akin to Mikey Erg’s first full-length, which came out earlier this year, The Unlovables perspective on life has changed somewhat. Ostensibly, this is a reflection on more youthful years, on the hopes and dreams that came with being in one’s early 20s, from someone in their 30s, now much more ‘adult’. Except they are not really any more ‘adult’ in spirit now, in spite of societal pressures and norms. The Unlovables are recalling the feelings of their youth, but this is no nostalgia fest. Instead, it is asked: if then, why not now?
Just take “1996”, probably the highlight of the album, a perky, hook-filled head-rush, with a hell of a chorus: “My heart stopped when they played that song/ Do you feel that too, god it’s been so long/ You make me feel like 1996”. The feelings felt back then can still be felt now; you just need to look in the right places, with the right people. Those youthful rushes are dormant, not dead: “It’s been years since the night or a band/ Or simply holding hands/ Made me feel like l could burst apart and die/ Now I’m feelin’ the way I did then/ Yeah I’m reeling again”. “Worthwhile”, with pop-punk-y melodies for the ages, is probably The Unlovables most ‘mature’ number; but in this world, mature does not necessarily mean cynical, despite evidence to the contrary in much of the punk scene. This is essentially the polar opposite to CBH’s album closer “Inconsolable”: an acceptance that good things can come to pass, but that we should recall the ‘good’ rather than the ‘passing’ itself. I don’t know if I have read lyrics like these before in the pop-punk world: “I hope you keep these feelings wrapped around you/ Like winter layers to warm you when it’s colder”. It is refreshing and timeless; this is not cynical, nor is it patronising; it is heart-felt pop-punk, without being ‘emo’.
The time passes, but youthful optimism and maturity are not mutually exclusive. The Unlovables accept what life throws at them, while not giving up any ounce of hope in finding the ‘one’. This is not naïve; this is keeping your hopes and dreams intact, as concluded on the fast-paced “2nd Date”: “And we don’t need to remember what we did that night/ Just that we knew something was true/ Something was real and right/ Just that we felt asteroid belt-bound up into the sky/Eyes seeing stars kissing in bars/ Falling in love for life”. Lets hope this EP is not a one-off: the cream of the mid-00s pop-punk resurgence is on fire.
Dirt Bike Annie Side
Dirt Bike Annie was a band I got into quite late, but Hit the Rock was an album I started to love a lot. I’ve almost played that album to death so to me it’s interesting to see that they have released something new (even if it’s been a while since it was released) and I definitely like their side of this split. Their side starts up with “Saludos a Todos”: it begins as a classic Dirt Bike Annie song, but turns more modern pop punk (the good modern pop punk) as it goes on, and to me it could almost be a Jabber song. “Ambitious Heart” sounds more like a British late 70’s Punk song and that usually isn’t a bad thing. It is a great song as well, the production is perfect with some of it sounding clean, but a little dirty at the same time. “Spent the Night alone” is also quite standard Dirt Bike Annie, but slower than usual and the harmonies are wonderful! To me “Chick a Walk” is the “Grape Crush” of the split, I hear a British influence here as well. If anything, it sounds a bit like the Cute Lepers to me. Even if, the last song; “Cynical” is acoustic it is to me the song that sounds most like the Hit the Rock. It’s simply a beautiful song that takes more of an Indie Rock route than a Pop Punk one. It is way better than the Blink-182 song with the same name. To me, the lyrics on their side aren’t very memorable on first listens, but the melodies definitely are! This is a great comeback overall!