Review Summary: By any name, a good pop/rock album...
California pop-punk act Number One Gun signed to Tooth & Nail Records in 2005 with the expectation of becoming another in the long line of “buzz” bands the label has produced on the melodic rock scene, a la MxPx, Anberlin, etc. Their Tooth & Nail debut, Promises for the Imperfect
, was heavily promoted by the label and Number One Gun landed supporting slots on tours with many of the label’s heavyweights. In 2006, however, the band split up, with each of the four members scurrying off to pursue individual endeavors.
Lead vocalist Jeff Schneeweis kept busy as a producer but also began recording new material under the moniker of The North Pole Project. When Tooth & Nail caught wind of his plans to release this new material, they asked Schneeweis to release it as Number One Gun to fulfill contractual obligations. This is a rather long-winded back story, I realize, and if anybody has skipped ahead in the review (assuming you’re reading this at all), I don’t blame you. Here’s the important point to take away from this boring history lesson: Number One Gun is back – albeit in a heavily condensed and legally-induced manner.
Legalities aside, it would have been quite silly for Schneeweis to release this as anything other than Number One Gun, as the The North Pole Project
doesn’t really deviate from the band’s previous emotive pop-punk style. If anything, it seems more like the logical evolution in the band’s sound from Promises for the Imperfect
. Obviously, the biggest difference with this record would be that Schneeweis did pretty much everything himself this time – vocals, guitars, bass, drums, piano, production, mixing, etc. Schneeweis’ self-rhythm section on The North Pole Project
lacks the punk aggressiveness that his former bandmates infused into the band’s sound, but aside from that, it’s clear that Number One Gun was always really Schneeweis’ show and that a name change would be about as pointless as The Rock wanting to go by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as an actor – everybody’s going to call him The Rock anyway.
With the rest of the band out of the picture, Schneeweis plays up his Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional influences a bit more than in the past; thus, The North Pole Project
is about two-thirds powerpop/pop-punk and one-third sensitive guy acoustics, with Postal Service-esque electronic touches thrown in. Schneeweis has a highly emotive voice in the tradition of Anthony Green (or Cove Reber, if you prefer) and, except for the straight-forward “Find Your Escape”, is more interested here in making everything sound really nice and pretty than adding a little gristle and toughness to the proceedings. This lack of grit makes for the occasional bland song (“Million”, “Wake Me Up”), but Schneeweis is one of the better melodic minds on the scene and, unlike some of his peers, doesn’t resort to whiny histrionics vocally. Album opener “The Massacre” features driving, pleading vocals that would threaten to be grating in the wrong hands, but Schneeweis’ cries of ”What have I done"”
are spot-on and immensely emotional, without resorting to screaming.
Schneeweis also has a good sense of how to keep his songs lean and compact; at just over a half-hour in length, The North Pole Project
is a breezy listen that flows well and doesn’t go on unnecessary tangents. It may not make for a particularly daring or memorable album, but it is a better pop-rock disc than what the majority of the scene is putting out. Where Number One Gun and Schneeweis go from here will be the interesting question now.
Thank You Ending
The Different Ones