Review Summary: The wacky make-up and jean jackets have finally disappeared. Sadly, so has Children 18:3's it factor.
Record labels are dying. All of them. With many prominent bands beginning to see the advantages in self-releasing their own work, record labels seem to be functioning merely as a way for an unheard of band to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame. There are countless examples of record labels controlling their artists and forcing them to write records that the label assumes the masses want to hear. Unfortunately, a label that was once the archetype of ‘Christian’ record labels seems to be falling into the exact same abyss. A record label that used to claim artists such as Anberlin, mewithoutYou, As Cities Burn or Underoath, Tooth and Nail Records has signed more than their fair share of questionable bands the past few years, all while seemingly forcing the already existing signees to create music for their diminishing demographic. One of the most poignant example of this is Minnesota based Children 18:3. Playing a style of pop-punk that more often than not found itself leaning towards the punk end of the spectrum, Children 18:3 released two critically acclaimed albums. Their Third release, On the Run
, sees an unwelcome departure from the punk tendencies and female vocals, focusing instead on their pop-aspects while throwing in aspects that would not feel out of place in a hardcore record.
David and Lee Marie Hostetter both provide vocals, with their brother Seth rounding out the lineup. In past releases, bassist Lee Marie was featured predominantly in tracks, but on this release her presence is hardly felt, instead it feels as though she is used as a gimmick; songs that implement female vocals are few and far between, and when they do appear it is usually to create a sense of saccharine ‘sweetness’. David Hostetter often writes simplistic three-chord songs embellished by guitar solos sure to pique interest. Seth is an above average drummer who seems to play to the level of his siblings, as he never truly plays to the extent of his previously displayed abilities during the entirety of On the Run. The album itself starts off with one of the stronger tracks on the album Moment to Moment
, a story of a characters lack of ambition thinly veiled through a story of a circus. Everything that fans enjoyed in previous releases are present, including catchy choruses and da-da-da’s coupled with David’s unique vocal delivery. The lyricism for this track provides brief hope that Children 18:3’s self-proclaimed progression was going to produce great results. Sadly, that is not the case.
As the album progresses Children 18:3 regresses in front of our eyes. Lee Marie’s energetic vocals are traded in for uninspired bleeps-and-bloops while guitar solos are traded in for clichéd bridges and lackluster ballads. Perhaps it is unfair to pit songs on this record against their predecessors, but it is nearly impossible to not notice the regression when compared to past tracks. Where in the past Children 18:3 could create slow/acoustic songs without missing a beat in the flow of the record, slow songs now feel awkwardly out of place and forced. Always on the Run
is without a doubt one of the worst songs that Children 18:3 has ever written. Everything about it, be its slow tempo or awkward use of Lee Marie’s fledging vocals, seems forced and gimmicky. While past records showed the inherent chemistry of the two vocalists, it now seems as though David and Lee Marie do not know how to complement each other whatsoever.
As earlier alluded to Children 18:3 tries to progress in more ways than just the absence of female vocals and an addition of electronics. There is also a focus on implementing more hardcore aspects into their brand of pop-punk. This is not a novel idea by any means, and it proves to only further muddle the sound in which Children 18:3 were striving to achieve. What About Justice
thankfully, is a song placed after one of the slowest and most boring tracks on the entire album. This song features a breakdown-esque hook and harsh vocals. What About Justice, while not being entirely interesting if looked at by its lonesome, serves as a way to regain interest in a faltering album. If this track did not exist, it is likely that listeners would dismiss this album after a mere four tracks.
Although On the Run is not an album that boasts songs worthy of more than a few listens, it is not a terrible album. There are more than a few moments found that are interesting enough. Unfortunately, Children 18:3 watered down their own sound, be it through their own actions or some higher powers doing, creating an album that is resoundingly boring
. Everything that made this band interesting and fun is being compartmentalized, with disastrous results; a band that once seemed to play music solely to create music now seems bored and stagnant.