Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stay Afraid

Parts and Labor - Stay Afraid

Parts and Labor
Jagjaguar/Brah, 2006.

Sounds Like: DFA 1979 meets Neutral Milk Hotel meets...Alkaline Trio?
For: Fans of poppy punk looking for another way of not feeling guilty about it.
Listen: Parts and Labor - New Buildings

I really hate to admit it, but I used to be pretty in to pop-punk when I was younger. I loved NOFX and Pennywise (and, hell, a good portion of the Epitaph roster), cut my teeth on The Offspring, and still own a few Alkaline Trio albums. What's even harder to admit is that I still have a bit of a soft spot for it, even as I have come to really loathe it. I mean, I don't really listen to it anymore, nor do I have much desire, but on the occasions when it happens to be playing, I don't hate it as much as I really ought.

Maybe the three guys in Parts and Labor feel the same way. The bulk of this album feels like an attempt to take that pop-punk base and song structure and transform it into something great, or artistic. Unfortunately, this sort of alchemy doesn't work.

I do give them credit, though: replacing harmony with dissonance, bringing in the laser synths, and focusing on the 'pop' half of the equation (rather than insipidly attach itself to anything 'punk') gives the album much more mileage than it would have had otherwise. In fact, at times, it is downright powerful: the fantastic opening and closing tracks ("A Great Divide" and "Changing of the Guard," respectively) deliver on all the promise that this band has, and help elevate the rest of the album to a respectable level. Interestingly enough, those are also the two songs that deviate most from Parts and Labor's typical sound. Tracks like "New Buildings," "Timeline," and "Stay Afraid," are par for the course, and manage to have a few infectious touches to them, but are plagued by "where have I heard this before, but cleaner?" progressions and melodies.

The chugging guitars, synthy counter-melodies and constantly mashing snare drum may form a good backdrop for summer, and allow for a bit of guilty indulgence being less guilty. However, at its core, Stay Afraid fails to rise above its component pieces, taken from a genre beyond repair.



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