Review Summary: The single-textured approach employed by So Far From Real is at once both a taxing prospect for a full album's worth of songs and an infectious atmospheric quality.
I'm trying to think of a clever way to introduce Cauterize's 2003 album So Far From Real - something unique to pick out, that I can start discussing as a tangent and use to gradually lead into a review of the material on offer. Alas, I've decided it's not possible; their music doesn't lend itself to idiosyncratic analysis any more than it pretends to be idiosyncratic itself. Every time I think of a way to mock their faux-emo lyricism targeted at ideas of death, bleeding and melodrama, I find myself unwittingly singing the very hook I'm quoting. Every time I decide they're musically average, a chorus comes to life and I'm forced to rethink my approach.
Playing a dark, angsty, fast-paced brand of pop-punk is officially the easiest way to not stand out in modern music, but the single-textured approach employed by So Far From Real is at once both a taxing prospect for a full album's worth of songs and an infectious atmospheric quality. Though really just a product of the right set of guitar effects and conventionally unconventional chords, it somehow adds a lot to the listening experience by establishing a core sound packed absolutely full of distortion, which the hoarsely shouted vocals of Jesse Smith only serve to intensify at all junctures. The rhythm section is relentless - often too much so - and as such, every single track on this debut record serves up a hefty dose of momentum, especially when the bass gets more involved like the opening of I'll Cry Tomorrow. Unfortunately, over the course of 40 minutes, there are points at which the incessant punching becomes more tiresome than tireless.
Technically, though, Cauterize are leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of their peers. Though their first record was not to the brilliant standards of 2005's follow-up Paper Wings in this regard, it still harbours a ton of heavy riffs, and one guitar line in particular - that of Shooting Stars - which stands out as arguably the catchiest instrumental melody every written in-genre. Despite the band's obvious proficiency, though, there's no pretending that So Far From Real is about anything more than its choruses and punk-pop sensibilities. As long as Smith stays away from his softer, more nasal voice, and the band remain firmly in hook-laden energetic pop-punk territory, the material is great. The band know how to write a brilliant narrow melody, and the verses lead into emphatically delivered choruses, courtesy of layered vocals and amped-up guitars.
It's a shame this record shows such little diversity because the roots it possesses are strong and even the slightest bit of variety would probably bump So Far From Real froma 3 to a 4. It's massively angsty, likely to attract last.fm tags ranging from 'emo' to 'punk', and distortion-heavy throughout, but the hooks are huge, the energy is real, and it's the kind of album you can picture listening to exclusively for half a week, then not returning to for half a decade. As far as blueprints for raw, dark, melodramatic pop-punk go, this is a record that comes mighty close to perfection, and though its hesitancy or inability to stray from that formula becomes grating every so often, its heart is in the right place and it's damn tricky to get out of your head. I've been trying for 5 years.