Review Summary: Not surrendering just yet
Even when Just Surrender were considered fresh in 2005, their most redeeming quality, a two-way vocal split with singers Jason Maffuci and Dan Simons, was arguably just a swindling of Taking Back Sunday’s own Adam Lazzara and John Nolan’s switch/layering singing techniques - albeit being incorporated better than most post-hardcore/pop-punk bands on average. That withstanding, Just Surrender have always been known to be just another band to keep the sub-genre up and running, custom designed with the positives and the negatives that seem to prerequisite this type of scene: catchy on occasion, awful lyrics, and a lack of progression from release to release. This year’s Phoenix
continues the stereotype.
When we last left off with Just Surrender, 2007’s We’re In Like Sin
, the band were too busy trying to make a more definitive name for themselves, as far as radio play goes, rather than doing something interesting or noteworthy. But as you might have guessed, things didn’t turn out so well. The band’s hooks seemed watered-down and lazy, and, well, with cover art that embodied the video for Avenged Sevenfold’s “Beast and the Harlot”, Just Surrender certainly had a hard time being taken seriously. With this in mind, expectations for their third full-length, Phoenix
, are not exactly staggering to say the least - though you'll find that this actually works to Just Surrender’s advantage, in a sense: you will be pleasantly caught off guard with the strengths of some
of the hooks in the songs.
Make no mistake, though; Just Surrender haven’t rewritten their poppy-emo formula, but they have tightened up a little bit. “Through The Night” starts Phoenix
out on a strong note, Maffuci wearing a pure-rock guise while Dan Simons comes into the double-chorus with finesse and grace, the duo putting on the best performance of their careers. Unfortunately, the album doesn’t quite keep up with the opener, though, and such cringe-worthy lyrical garbage as “Crazy” and “Burning Up” float by and detail a band that still just cannot pen any noteworthy or at least middle-of-the-road quality lyrical lines. Half of Phoenix
runs its course until something noteworthy comes up again, “Stronger Now”. The song has an aggressive attitude that’s appropriate given each singer’s hard-pressed performance and Simons and Jolly Ubriaco interesting, if not complex guitar work.
“Lose Control” and “Better to Leave” continue Just Surrender’s mildly rough approach that “Stronger Now” started out on – but then we hit acoustic number “Carried Away”, a bump in the road so sudden that it’s able to completely send us off the edge. Saccharine in a word, faux-romantic in another, the song embodies poorly-played acoustic sentiment with an expected-at-this-point weak set of lyrics and low-produced strings in the background, meant to add emotional context but just pile more dirt onto the song’s overall poor standings. Fortunately, the band don’t let Phoenix
end on a God-awful note, however, as “Jukebox Memoires” ends off the album in a summer-suited, runaway-together pop-punk fashion, cleverly avoiding the routine of ending a set of songs with an acoustic cut – and a very weak one at that.
, this New York quintet are doing everything in their power to appease their fans and just stay alive in their marketing niche - that’s about it. Fortunately, Just Surrender are no longer trying to shoot for the top of the charts, though, as evidenced by their music and even a recent interview; and you’ll be generally surprised at some of the songs’ choruses to be found here, going into the album without expecting much beforehand. That being said, there are still a lot of cringe-worthy moments that the band just have to smooth out, most notably an overall general inconsistency of song quality and poor lyrical lines throughout the whole of the album. Because of this, the majority of Phoenix
further prooves that Just Surrender are still suffering from the post-hardcore/pop-punk stereotype that's plagued them for much of their career. Stuck in a hole, this time Just Surrender aren't shooting for the radio charts - they're just trying to stay alive as a band.