Pop punk is a genre that has in many ways stagnated, if you’re a pessimist, or coalesced and solidified into its more permanent sound, if you’re an optimist. That hasn’t stopped new bands from forming and taking their own stab at that sound as it can vary just enough to appeal to a variety of musicians and fans of very, very different things. One end of pop punk might favor the hyperspeed riffing and snotty vocals of NOFX and their lineage, while another side might gravitate towards the mid-tempo guitars and syrupy sweet vocal styling that was more in line with Green Day and the back catalog of bands who found a home on the now defunct Lookout! Records during their ‘90s heyday.
As a 39 year-old guy, I have a bit of a confession to make: I’m a huge mark for the band A Day to Remember. Whether it’s fair or not, I believe there’s a tendency to lump these guys in as a band for the younger set, namely the Warped Tour and Hot Topic crowd. However, I’m not going to spend a lot of time here talking about the kind of comments and judgments that get lobbed so often at this band. Rather, I’m going to tell you, and them, why I love this band.
Alright, you look at the cover art and I tell you that this is a solo guitar project and what are the things that pop into your mind? I bet it’s not “pop-punk meets nu-prog” is it? Well, this is exactly what Jon Poulin’s With Vigor is. Apparently, Poulin is known in his own circles for his pop punk approach but also wanted to introduce more complexity and other facets into his music, resulting in this delightful little album. What can you expect on it? The album is neatly divided between two song types. The first, exhibited in the opening track, is an impossibly infections, smile inducing blend of music that can really only be described as “technical pop-punk”. Remove thy pitchforks and head on down below to listen.
Considering the prog metal trajectory they’ve been on for just shy of a decade now, it’s easy to forget that Canadian stalwarts Protest the Hero started out their career as a punk band. Of course, the punk roots are still intermittently noticeable throughout their post-Kezia discography — take the verses in “Spoils”, for instance — but for the most part, it’s plainly apparent that the band have comfortably adapted to a more technical, progressive sound over the years. In light of this, it’s actually somewhat surprising in retrospect that it took until 2017 for a more punk-oriented side project to arise from the band, but we’re now presented with Mystery Weekend, a three-piece featuring vocalist Rody Walker and drummer Mike Ieradi from Protest alongside guitarist/bassist Dan Hay.
Fight the Fight are still in the earliest stages of defining their own sound, despite many years of playing together under another moniker, but they’ve certainly nailed something here that is a combination of metal and emocore style punk (think At the Gates meets A Day to Remember). There are some really sweet melodic hooks in the choruses especially in the lead track.