Review Summary: Handguns ditch the angst.
Let’s be honest, Handguns debut album “Angst” was okay, but that’s about it. Taylor Eby certainly has a unique voice but if we’re being honest so does Ronnie Radke, needless to say unique doesn’t always mean good, and on “Angst” Eby’s voice became quite grating in a short amount of time. It certainly didn’t help that the band stayed the course of every other Pure Noise band not named The Story So Far. Two years on Handguns are still playing the same game, it’s just that they’re a lot better at it this time around.
The first thing you’ll notice on “Life Lessons” is the vastly improved vocals; no longer trying to reach some ridiculously high pitch, Eby instead sings in a mid-range tone only travelling into his previous register when absolutely necessary. It works on multiple levels; songs no longer become chores to listen to and a superior understanding of dynamics means that vocally the album is significantly more varied than its predecessor. So Taylor gets a thumbs up, having learned to control himself songs flow quite effectively, the emotion in the lyrics actually translates into the vocals this time around which adds a level of sincerity previously lacking in Handguns work.
Handguns have never been bad at playing or writing pop-punk, the tracks on “Life Lessons” don’t tend to drag; short punchy tracks are the bands strength and they know it. You won’t find anything that breaks the typical pop-punk mould, but credit must be given to Handguns impeccable sense of timing, they know what to play and exactly when to play it. Again don’t come in expecting interesting takes on song structure or influence from styles outside the immediate pop-punk circle, Handguns certainly aren’t Gatsby’s American Dream. Oddly enough a lack of experimentation turns out to be a blessing as there’s no track here as cringe inducing as “Early Retirement”, that fact alone is worth a few bonus points.
At the end of the day “Life Lessons” is good, it's not great, but was anyone expecting Handguns to revolutionise music? When it comes down to it “Life Lessons” is a fun album; it doesn’t try to be anything other than a fun album, it’s a solid improvement on “Angst”, it’s catchy and while it’s not going to change how anyone feels about the genre, it'll give the kids something to hold them over until Parker Cannon breaks up with someone again.