Review Summary: If this is a scene, then I’m goddamn impressed.
No matter how much one resists, passing judgment on music can wear a person down. It is often difficult not to look too microscopically at what you are rating and forget what the true purpose of the music is. Worse still, a form of elitism can infiltrate into the equation, leading to generalizations which are nothing but myth. You know the kind: Radio only plays crap, lead singles cannot be an album’s best track, and pop-punk was only good before it became popular. Another confounding notion is that anyone can write a catchy chorus. However, quality choruses are not as prevalent as one might think. Sure, one-hit wonders will always exist by fluking a contagious passage, but the fact that they struggle to replicate such success should be telling. Accomplished artists have the ability to write a handful of superior choruses per album (which will usually become singles), but then there are those rare albums that are so jam-packed with killer refrains, that it is easy to look past the minor indiscretions elsewhere…
Ladies and gentleman; the winner of the “Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American” Award for 2010 is… (Insert drum-roll and dramatic pause here)… The Graduate, with their second full-length album ‘Only Every Time’.
In a musical age of layers and overdubs demanding multiple listens, seldom has an album as instantaneously infectious crossed this reviewer’s ears. If first impressions were the be all and end all, then ‘Only Every Time’ would race immediately to the top of the charts. Deserving much credit for this aural extravaganza is amazing opener ‘Don’t Die Digging’. As soon as the harmonized gang vocals of its chorus overcome one’s senses, it is obvious that “anthemic” is too light a word for this sublime cut. Importantly however, the same song also displays a technical edge which boosts its replay factor. The dual guitar attack of Matt Kennedy and Max Sauer slickly weave value-adding textures that may initially be missed simply because you will be having such a blast singing along to that glorious chorus.
Fans of the Illinoisan quintet’s debut LP ‘Anhedonia’ are sure to be impressed by its follow-up. While there is an almost comforting familiarity with song structure and track placement, the band has improved in practically every facet of their craft. Electronics are infused much subtler this time around, while question marks over Corey Warning’s lead vocals should be laid to rest since his moderately whiney inflection has all but disappeared. Warning handles gentler moments such as the aptly titled ‘Stuck (Inside My Head)’ and the heartfelt ‘Pull Me In’ especially impressively. Proof of the cohesion evident on ‘Only Every Time’, those two tracks are split by the riotously fun ‘Make Believe’, a track that brings the “woh wohs” and Jimmy Eat World would be proud to call their own. It is also a more mature The Graduate showcased here with a greater sense of ambition evident. On soaring closer ‘For The Missing’, they defy convention and record a sub-three minute epic.
The album is not all about atmosphere and catchiness though, with ‘All At Once’ recalling the band’s debut EP ‘Horror Show’ by storming out of the blocks to rock loudest. Even here however, some may take issue with the production of Brian McTernan. While this is clearly not the same pop-punk band that burst on to the scene in 2006, the man that was at the helm of Thrice’s ‘The Illusion of Safety’ and ‘The Artist in the Ambulance’, Senses Fail’s ‘Still Searching’ and Moneen’s ‘The Red Tree’ arguably polishes the final product up a little too slickly. This is especially apparent with the shimmering guitar effects that are utilized in a similar manner to McTernan’s work on Circa Survive’s ‘Juturna’ and ‘On Letting Go’. The ethereal ‘Permanent Tourists’ is the best example of this and while initially a positive, its over-use becomes a little disconcerting towards the album’s conclusion. What it thankfully does not do is mask The Graduate’s rock-solid rhythm section, with Tim Moore’s drumming especially impressive.
‘Only Every Time’ may not be your prototypically perfect album, since it does have its flaws. In addition to the aforementioned over-produced guitar effects, The Graduate could still use a little more thought and variety in their ultimately standard relationship-based lyrics. They are relatable though and appreciatively contain the same “silver lining to dark clouds” balance which ‘Anhedonia’ did. Even still, these relatively minor indiscretions are easily overlooked when considering all the positives the LP has to offer. Quite simply, ‘Only Every Time’ has that certain X factor that makes its strengths stand out and its weaknesses fade to the background. Fun and catchy, it is an extremely efficient album with hardly a wasted moment on display. In fact, individual songs - and the album as a whole - seem to fly by much quicker than they actually last, resulting in you just wanting to press “play” over and over again. And with so many killer choruses being presented here, then why wouldn’t you want to?
“Out of control, I’m getting closer. End of the road, I know that I’m going where I’m not supposed to go… I don’t care what they say anymore”.
Recommended Tracks: Don’t Die Digging, Pull Me In, All At Once, For The Missing & Stuck (Inside My Head).