Allow me to begin a review of Title Fight’s new album ‘Shed’ by discussing Tigers Jaw’s most recent album, ‘Two Worlds’… Perhaps the most noticeable, and disappointing aspect of that album was how the band had toned down the ‘punk’ part of their Smiths-style pop-punk in favour of an even more languishing pace and depressive tone. While it was not a ‘bad’ album, so to speak, the loss of youthful energy and relative absence of infectious hooks was definitely underwhelming. Furthermore, this decline seemed to be the result of a conscious decision to move away from the band’s pop-punk roots.
Which brings us back to Kingston, PA pop-punk/melodic-hardcore band Title Fight and their new album, ‘Shed’… While Title Fight have always seemed to be more high-octane than the aforementioned Tigers Jaw (debut album ‘The Last Thing You Forget’ was heavily influenced by bands such as Lifetime and Kid Dynamite), there were certainly plenty of similarities to be found between the two. A new similarity is that both bands’ second albums see them both tentatively try to step away from the pop-punk found on their debuts.
Such a departure is immediately obvious on ‘Shed’, being noticeably slower than its predecessor. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the album tends to suffer from the same problem which plagued Tigers Jaw’s ‘Two Worlds’, and that is that it feels lethargic as opposed to more expansive and mature. Songs like ‘Society’
and ‘Where Am I?’
plod along wearily and generally disrupt the flow of the album. However, when the band wholeheartedly commit to their newfound approach the results are much more pleasing. The prime example of this is the enthrallingly placid picked notes of ‘Safe In Your Skin’
which is by far the slowest song on the album, and also the prettiest. The Foo Fighters-esque rock of the title track is equally pleasing, while the awfully titled ‘Crescent Shaped Depression’
(really?!) is an example of Title Fight occupying the middle-ground well, striking the perfect balance between pop-hooks, punk energy, and mid-tempo maturity.
Unfortunately though ‘Shed’ is characterised by the absence, or at least the toning down of what made ‘The Last Thing You Forget’ so special. That album’s twin vocal assault briefly rears its head on ‘Stab’
in timid fashion, but has largely been replaced by Jamie Rhoden’s endearing, passionately strained vocals. But perhaps most disappointing is the lack of youthful exuberance and infectiousness which marked their debut. There isn’t a single song on here which makes you want to shout along in the way that ‘Symmetry’ or ‘Youreyeah’ did – even the relatively vibrant 90’s-style melodic-hardcore of ‘Flood of ‘72’
and ‘You Can’t Say Kingston Doesn’t Love You’
. While bemoaning the lack of traits which benefitted a different album may seem redundant, the lack of a sufficient replacement leaves an inescapably disappointing void.
‘Shed’ finds Title Fight seemingly caught in two minds. ‘The Last Thing You Forget’ saw them master the vibrant infectiousness of pop-punk married with melodic hardcore, but at times hinted at a more progressive potential for the band. Essentially, on ‘Shed’ the band are awkwardly stuck between the two: youthful energy and mature expansion and more often than not the result is inoffensively stagnant. Fortunately there are more than enough respectable moments to salvage the album, most of which occur when the band are more confident in what they are trying to achieve. Though the departure found on ‘Shed’ is not mind-blowingly ambitious, the band’s efforts to progress are commendable enough and though the band’s potential wasn’t fully realised here, it is still far too early to rule Title Fight down for the count.