Review Summary: "Let the revolution begin"
It seems pop-punk has been dominating the music scene as of late. With Warp Tour friendly bands such as Paramore, Cartel, and New Found Glory, the surge of pop-punk is a behemoth of a machine that can sometimes put out very well crafted and creative albums… however most of them just turn out to be another horrible release that passes like after taking a huge ***, leaving just that; a huge steaming pile of ***. But the bands that can do it well are held close to my heart and I consider myself proud to listen to bands such as them (Set Your Goals, Fireworks, and Blink 182 to name a few).
I have only recently started listening to the pop-punk genre. I consider my first band that legitimately fell under pop-punk to be Four Year Strong and since then I have had quite the obsession over anything catchy while still keeping the ‘core’. In all reality, I have only just stumbled on Stretch Arm Strong while going through some old Solid State DVDs that my church has swimming around their sound area. With my curiosity piqued, I went to my local CD store and purchased the first album I saw from them, A Revolution Transmission
. To explain what I heard can be described as probably the greatest hardcore influenced pop-punk album that I have ever heard.
Stretch Arm Strong
combines all the goodness of punk/hardcore and influence heavily with a catchy pop-punk rhythm, overlaying punk inspired yells to incredibly catchy yet heavy riffs. The beat it set at a very fast pace, with D-beat inspired drumming and not accidently this music was made for in-your-face concert goers. Their songs are also testament to that fact. Every song found on this record is an anthem to everything that they stand for. Their opening track found on the record is a declaration of a start of a revolution, and at the time of this release (2001) this can easily be identified with today by the recent melodic hardcore bands that reenergize the dying genre of pop-punk, bands like Polar Bear Club, Crime In Stereo and the recently reformed Lifetime. As Stretch Arm Strong’s vocalist Chris McLane shouts and sings in the song ‘Means to and End’:
“Let the revolution begin. The starting point will never determine the end.”
But what makes an album like this so good? Could it be the insanely catchy guitar riffs of Stretch Arm Strong’s David Cease and then guitarist Scott Dempsey? Is it found in the well crafted lyrics of Chris McLane or the well positioned breakdowns found in songs like ‘Worst Case Scenario’ or their longest track like ‘When Words Escape’? Well not exactly. What makes this album so great is the nostalgia that it projects into the listeners mind while hearing. This is a record that should have gone to the top of the charts, a record that deserves so much more praise then its counterparts. This is the inspiration of bands like Set Your Goals and even Comeback Kid. It helps unite the barriers of punk, hardcore, and pop-punk while never solidly identifying with any particular genre of those three.
Another thing to recognize is the dedication that Stretch Arm Strong had to its fans and to what the band itself believes in. Keeping in the spirit of hardcore, Stretch Arm Strong dedicates the song ‘For The Record’ to its fans, acknowledging the impact that bands such as themselves can have on their crowd and how the admirers and supporters of their music isn’t just a good thing or another sale, but their lifeblood; the reason that they ever existed in the first place.
“We were more than just a tour date. You were more than just a song.
We sweat and sang together and that helped us to carry on.”
Also in keeping to what the band believes in, Stretch Arm Strong heavily relies on their faith in Christianity and is found throughout the album in its positive uplifting lyrics, reaching a crescendo in the song ‘Still Believe Pt. II’ with Chris McLane acknowledging God for staying by his side throughout the ins and outs of his life, throughout the lows and the highs. But perhaps a huge shining star found on this album is the song ‘Take Back Control’; Stretch Arm Strong takes a sociopolitical standpoint and stands up against the evils of sexual violence with cleverly and excellently crafted and delivered lyrics which even features an unknown female vocalist taking over for several verses.
In conclusion, this album can be seen as an accident… an accident that should have been just any regular pop-punk release that accidently recharged a dying genre. An unknown Butterfly Effect where the whisper of this release helped spark a rejuvenation of other healthy competent bands of this genre can owe their careers to. While they may deny it, after listening to this album it is hard to deny that bands like Set Your Goals and Four Year Strong take deep influence from this band and particularly this album. And while Stretch Arm Strong may have had other releases before and after this, this can be seen as a defining moment in their career, not a point where they simply stagnate and disappear into mediocrity, but a highlight, a highlight that shed some hope into a dying scene and helped carry it onwards to the present day. The revolution has begun…