Review Summary: come down - all the fighting's over
I'm always awestruck when a bread-and-butter genre like pop punk gets fucking furious. I mean, many of us can and will grumble about suburban white kids who just play four chords and make money having nothing to complain about, and fair enough. But it's in that automatic brush-off – the oh, it's just pop punk, nothing below the surface here
assumption – where the potential for the assassination lies. What I'm saying is, I love when guys in this genre get pissed off and scream a bit about it. It's the unexpected moment of weakness, like on Dude Ranch
when Mark starts to shout "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry" a little too sincerely over a tense double-time, or the first time you heard Matt Skiba pry open his throat to scream the chorus of "Radio", or when Max Bemis collected all the pages of his vitriol-spewing diaries from the floor and spat them out over "Admit It!!!". Watching wannabe punks on skateboards trying to take over the world is the appeal of the whole damn genre, anyway; they might as well get mad at that world in the process.
There is a point to be captured in that rambling diatribe, to wit; I miss when The Dangerous Summer sounded somewhat dangerous, man. I understand why the glossy sheen of Reach for the Sun
looms so large over their discography for many, but these days even "The Permanent Rain" never gives me what I'm really looking for despite its undeniable beauty. I found it on "Work in Progress", their best jam to date; I found it there in AJ's agonised, staticky screams at the end, and in the way the gargantuan chorus melody clashes with the small, confused anger of "I know hate, cos I see it in everyone around me"
. I found it again, briefly, on Golden Record
, in the seething "Knives" and the hook of "Miles Apart" if nowhere else. The Dangerous Summer
is a good album – to the point, uncomplicated, and arguably the most digestible teaser palette anyone looking to get into the band could ask for. It's also just not fuckin' angry enough.
Fans of Reach for the Sun
will be pleased, as The Dangerous Summer
is a glossy, poppy number which knows what it does well and sticks to it. I don't mean to diminish that, but it's not what I came here for; AJ's rugged chorus on "Valium" is the closest the album gets, and even that is polished to the point of having none of the rough-and-tumble charm they took three albums perfecting. Actually, the best moments here are when the pendulum swings the other way: any pop-punker who can dedicate a song to their daughter has truly outgrown the genre's fatal 'act young forever' mentality, and "Luna" is growing older at its sentimental finest. The elegant slower pillars of "Ghosts" and "Infinite" recall Golden Record
's shattering builds, albeit without any of the jagged edges. Appropriately for a self-titled, the band's various sounds all seem to have found a home here, and appropriately for this band's
self-titled, that involves a crop of barely memorable songs alongside the diamonds. Every song that demonstrates a new outlook is followed by a "This Is Life", a barely qualified Reach for the Sun
wannabe with the kind of lazy chorus - "do you remember me like I remember you" - that makes me remember why people hate pop punk in the first place.
Maybe, like those teenage skateboard punks I mentioned earlier, this older and calmer The Dangerous Summer have nothing to complain about anymore. Maybe their pissed-off selves are just simmering under the surface - "there's a hole somewhere where my old self lives", AJ moans to kick off the album, sounding for all my money like the world's most convincing Dustin Kensrue impersonator. You almost certainly don't come here for the same things I do, and this time around that's for the best, because I mark these moments by how often AJ's voice breaks or the guitars rise above a catchy strum. The feeling is still there, without a doubt, just not the one I came to hear.