The thing about old hardcore bands is that they kind of never really die. There is inevitably some festival or other, especially these days, that will invite X or Y legendary hardcore band to get the kids to circle pit and stage-dive one more time all while pointing to the sky and shouting along unintelligibly to, usually, lyrics about how important it is to stand on your own two feet, rise above some aspect or another of society, and be true to yourself. There is a reason for this, though, and it’s because of a certain timelessness to the cliches that present themselves in what we think of when we call something “hardcore”.
The many variants of “-core” have been well documented but when we talk about its basest foundation we refer to bands who share the most direct lineage to acts such as Minor Threat and Black Flag through its evolution, particularly that of the NYHC scene, seen in bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and Sick of It All. Many of the bands who took off with the late 90s wave of hardcore are still around to varying degrees but aren’t nearly as prodigious as they once were. In the meantime, this strain of hardcore has been seen as stale by some and a retro act by others.
Those claims fall by the wayside when talking about Comeback Kid. The band have been practicing their brand of varied, semi-conventional hardcore for the last 15 years throughout lineup changes and the turnover in audience tastes. On Outsider the band is in rare form with this fire-breathing, super-moshable, and often melodic slab of wax. As ever, the band are all over the map in showing off a variety of influences from straight up raging to the kind of singalongs their fans have eaten up for years. They even do this within the confines of one track, “Hell of a Scene”, that deftly switches gears from an almost grindcore riff before swapping into a memorable melodic refrain and back again.
“I’ll Be That” highlights some of the trademark, off-kilter hardcore that made Snapcase both beloved and a tremendous influence. Elsewhere the band show off their continued mastery of the hardcore singalong on tracks “Somewhere, Somehow” and “Surrender Control” with hooks that will superglue themselves to your cerebellum and have you in the pit, screaming your lungs out, in no time flat. I challenge anyone who even marginally likes the genre to somehow escape humming the choruses, at the very least, to both of these songs. That’s really sort of the point to hardcore. The persistent energy level wrung from beefy riffs played at a breakneck pace until the inevitable breakdown over top of gang vocals is pretty much the recipe for youth in a nutshell. At least when it comes to hardcore it is.
Adding Stu Harris in the not so recent past has proven to be a masterstroke as well. The same kind of incendiary playing that made for many memorable moments with Misery Signals is evident throughout Outsider. On “Recover”, for example, Harris and Jeremy Hiebert play off of each so well that, not only is the track seamless in its shifts, it’s a delightful example of dual channel guitar playing. The riffs eventually crash together over the bridge in a supremely satisfying way that shows off the band at their fullest width and breadth. The lead breaks and ringing chords that get utilized throughout the song recall the finest moments of bands like Strike Anywhere and older Rise Against without straying too far into the pop-punk field.
But Stu’s definitely not alone in bringing an arsenal to this gun fight. The pocket created by drummer, Jesse Labovitz, and bassist, Ron Friesen, is so tight that it allows for all of the pyrotechnics in the guitars and gives Andrew Neufeld the chance to play around with his delivery in a variety of ways. “Consumed the Vision” sees the band demonstrate this capacity in an almost playful fashion. The track features some excellent straight up hard rock, shout-along elements right on the intro. The riff is something right out of Against Me!’s playbook before it dives into something you might hear on your local “ALL ROCK RADIO” station which I’ll just assume is the boys having fun with the closest thing they’ll ever do to that particular format. The song even devolves into a positively Foo Fighters-esque section before winding to its conclusion.
That said, the band never get too far from the hardcore they’ve built their reputation on. The title track is joined by “Absolute” (which features Devin Townsend), “Outrage (Fresh Face, Stale Scene)”, and “Blindspot” as the hardest cuts on the album that will surely please old and new hardcore fans alike. Labovitz’s drumming is at the heart of these songs and the muscles are the riffing of Harris and Hiebert. Opportunities to mosh and shout along abound in these tracks and are sure to be crowd favorites on their tour promoting this album. Overall, this is diverse old-school-ish hardcore that should appeal to a wide-range of fans. Comeback Kid? It’s hard to label the prolific band as making a comeback here but it’s a breath of fresh air in reminding us what this kind of hardcore is all about and just how damned fun it can be.
You can get Comeback Kid’s Outsider in stores or via Nuclear Blast here.