Review Summary: Mildly generic, but infectious and enjoyable; Pop-Punk well executed.
It is always entertaining every now and again to revisit the older days of our lives, and hear the groups that have helped to shape our current musical tastes. Sometimes it can be surprising to view those bygone bands through the lens of our modern day perspective and rediscover the enjoyment we felt back then. As I did this with Sherwood, I found a surprisingly mature blend of pop-punk and light alternative (otherwise known as "indie") genres in this album that I had left on the shelf to gather dust a few years ago.
For those unfamiliar with the group, they hail from California and formed back in 2002 as a group of friends that attended the same university. In 2005 they released their debut album, Sing, But Keep Going, during a time where many other pop-punkers were dominating the airwaves. They rode a large, fad-fueled wave that was forwarded by other artists such as Motion City Soundtrack, The Starting Line, Fall Out Boy, Mae, The Academy Is…, to mention but a few. Due to this large swarm of artists, Sherwood kind of blended in with the crowd and was never really able to enjoy the popularity that much of these other groups had. Poor Sherwood, they really got the short end of the stick.
The strength of this particular album lies within its demonstration of precise, simple, and cohesive performances of the members and their instrument. The vocal work is surprisingly mature for a pop-punk group, despite the occasional cheesy line. Vocalist Nate Henry avoids whining and crooning like a fourteen year old boy, and the singing is, for the most part, straightforward. The voice is soft, controlled, and harmonizes well with much of the simple guitar work that permeates the album’s core. An obvious downfall of the album although, and possibly the genre as a whole, is shown in the underdeveloped and juvenile rhyming schemes exemplified in the song “Gentleman of Promise.”
And I wanted to wait ‘till the sun won’t appear, picking flowers and placing them over our ears.
As for the instrumentation, a crazy organ roll introduces the listener to the group, while the fun poppy beats begin to pump the blood of the album. Loud and soft dynamics are strewn throughout many of the songs, but not overbearingly so. The percussion is very prominent and precise, thanks to good mixing and production. The beats are varied in a conservative way, thus complementing the melodies perfectly. The guitar and vocal tradeoffs hook the listener while enveloping them in a shroud of melodic, reverb-doused, clean guitar work during many of the verses. A glimpse of originality and character is felt through the composition styles that the group sought to imitate while writing their songs. Similarities to structures and sounds developed by groups like the Beach Boys are hinted at through the old-fashioned style of rock and vocal harmony, paired with progressive alternative vibes sensed in various tracks like “The Town That You Live In”.
True to pop-music, the band does well to hold the attention by not including a single song over the four-minute mark. Each of the short tracks are diverse enough however, to keep the momentum set by the first part of the album and relay it until the end. Interlude pieces such as “What Lucy Found There”, which features a good beat paired with a synthesizer and vocals, help to keep the mood of the album light and cheery throughout.
An obvious downfall is that some of the songs end up sounding like mildly worse versions of songs already heard. Songs such as “You’re Like a Ghost”, which arrives towards the end of the disc, while being decent songs in and of themselves, hint too much at tricks already used in the first half of the album. The closer, while remaining overly brief, leaves the listener with a sense of satisfaction. It features a jazzy, almost improv-like piano jam that ends the album very well along with some bass and guitar melodies that fade out to conclude the disc.
The final word is that the band deserves a good listen if for nothing else than the fact that it has a good poppy feel with hints at many other “indie” like qualities that set it apart from many of the other acts that dominated the scene way back in 2005.
Recommended Tracks: “The Town That You Live In”, “We Do This To Ourselves”.