Review Summary: A good debut that shows a band's strongest and weakest aspects
Taking influences from the Southern California hardcore scene of the 1980’s, MxPx
was a band composed of scrappy high schoolers writing short tunes about girls, TV, and the words of Jesus Christ. These themes may sound generic to some, and admittedly these guys aren't exactly the most creative when it comes to their lyrics, but there’s an undeniable amount of energy to be found on this record.
For one, the band’s drummer, Yuri Riley, is particularly slick on the drumset. His style is simple, however he knows exactly how to make it effective. On “Anywhere But Here”, for example, he quickly throws in blasting snare drum hits and a few cymbal crashes to add a nice backbone to the music, all in a perfectly precise manner. His drumming is probably the best aspect of the record, for he blends his tight, structured style with the messy, scrappy tone of the album in a flawless manner, giving the album a natural charm to it.
Speaking of tone, this album is a lot different from the band’s later discography. As mentioned earlier, the record has more of a hardcore influence when compared to their other material, which is much more pop-punk oriented. Guitarist Andy Husted’s style is relatively heavy, and as exemplified on songs like “Weak” and “Twisted Words”, his riffs can be pretty rad at times. That means, almost by default, that the weakest member of the recording would be bassist and vocalist Mike Herrera. His bass is almost voiceless, hiding behind the guitars most of the time, with a few exceptions here and there. His vocals can get annoying to listen to at times.
One major problem I have with this record, though, is that it loses it’s momentum over time. The beginning portion of the album is definitely it’s highlight, for it spews out some of the strongest tracks on the album, making the rest of the record feel very weak. Many tracks here feel like padding more than anything else; if you were to remove many songs here it would perhaps end up improving the album’s quality. “Another Song About TV” is an incredibly dull number, for even Husted’s mighty guitar feels empty and bored. If there was one good thing about any of these songs, it would be that they make the best tracks stick out even more, such as “High Standards”.
This track shows the band’s strength very well. They go all in here, the guitars are very nasty, Riley’s drumming is just as tight as ever, and Herrera’s bass even strays away from the guitars a little. The lyrics might seem corny on paper, with lines such as ”Give your life to God”
sounding like they came from an after school PSA, but it’s Herrera’s surprising performance on this track is what saves them. Like I noted, his vocals throughout most of the record are very dull, but when it comes to songs like “High Standards”, his voice is one to pay attention to. Here, he sounds pissed, which isn’t much of a shock for a disc like this, however here it’s genuine, giving the track a very rough edge. The way he scowls “No one could give you the life you get”
is almost harsh, and the rest of the band’s instrumentation only intensifies the vocals.
Overall, the record is a good debut that shows some of the strongest and weakest aspects of the band. Their later records are much more poppy in sound, making this almost like the black sheep of their catalogue, but it does not change the record’s quality one bit. It’s an album that showcases some of their influences, making for an interesting listen.