Set Your Goals - Mutiny!
Pop Punk and hardcore get mixed around a lot these days. Painfully so, in fact. I don't think I have to name names, but I will anyway, Victory Records. However, when I say pop punk and hardcore, I really mean the pop punk that lies closer to pop, like Good Charlotte or Relient K, and really mean post-hardcore, which uses screaming instead of shouting and whole bunch of arpeggiated guitar chords. The result is really just pop/pop punk music with a slight edge from the screaming and non-power chord guitar work. However, all crossovers of these two genres don't need to be so banal and expected. Instead of taking the saccharine poppiness and sophomoricism of Good Charlotte and poor impersonations of Frodus' guitar work, why not lift better combinations from each genre? One example of such a different type of cross pollination is Set Your Goals. From pop punk, they lift the catchy melodies, but these feel more like the ones of Rufio and Bodyjar, and a positive youthful attitude, and from hardcore they lifted the shouted vocals, energetic pace, and also the positive youthful attitude. The combination is deadly catchy and considering pop punk's youthfulness is more whimsical and wistful, and hardcore's has more conviction and dedication, that combination too feels incredibly fresh and enjoyable. By stringing together elements and genres we've all heard before in a more original way, there is actually something original to be found in mixing pop punk and hardcore. And I'm writing this in the year 2006, where it seems as if the well had been tapped eons earlier.
The previous paragraph though feels more in reference to their [url=http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?reviewid=4434]self-titled demo[/url], which has an even mix of hardcore and pop punk. The new album Mutiny!
is much more slanted towards pop punk, though hardcore elements like gang vocals, beat slowdowns (not quite breakdowns), and a faster pace are still present on this album. Set Your Goals' shift to a more pop punk vibe has oddly coincided with me relistening to all of my pop punk, the resurgence of important poppy punk bands like Bouncing Souls and Lifetime, and a forum wide rediscovery of New Found Glory, which has seemed to listeners from sputnik to the hardcore forum. Even more oddly is that Set Your Goals seems to lift more and more from those specific bands on Mutiny!
than ever before. The main vocals are much more like those of New Found Glory (they feel like they've gotten clearer in tone and jumped up a few notes) and a lot of the chord progressions used are eerily similar to those used by Lifetime on Jersey's Best Dancers
It would appear that this album has landed at just the right time to have its greatest impact or relevance, but for some reason I haven't gotten into as much as I expected. I was a massive fan of the self-titled EP, but this is a different matter. My immediate reaction to most of the songs is overwhelmingly positive, but after a few listens, I lose interest. Tracks 1-4 and the last track, "Echoes" have yet to get old after 15+ listens, but the middle of the CD drags after repeated listens. I like each of the song individually but to hear the CD in full length can be tedious at times. I think this is because the reason to listen to Set Your Goals are their catchiest moments. They have that element down, and pull out their best hooks, riffs, backup vocals, etc. on "Work in Progress," "Mutiny," and "Echoes." The ending contrapuntal exchange between vocals on "Echoes" could be listened to on repeat and never get old just because of its lovable, catchy jumpiness at the fastest and most resonant moment of the song. "Mutiny" has the best vocal performance on the CD making the lyrics incredibly memorable, and the cheesily catchy acoustic intro to "Work in Progress" gets me every time. The well-roundedness and brilliance of these few tracks reappears at other moments in other songs all around the album but don't last long enough. In some songs like "We Do It for the Money, Obviously!" and "Dead Men Tell No Tales," there is a ton of great content that feels underdeveloped or underexploited because those songs don't even elapse one minute. In other songs, the cool moments are alternated with weird half time slow downs that I guess are supposed to sound like poppy breakdowns but are not particularly interesting or fun. In either case, I feel like there needs to be a stronger focus on exploring the best material and jettisoning the mediocre half-breakdowns that plague the album.
Overall though, this is a good album. When trying to review it critically the album feels sub par, but that doesn't change the fact that I've been loving it and listening to it on repeat recently. It just loses its kick after multiple runs through, but when revisited after an extended break can also be great. These songs aren't going to redefine any genre boundaries or do anything beyond what Set Your Goals established on their EP, but they still have some shining moments. If anything just let the three best tracks here find their way onto some kind of "Summer Jamz '06" mixtape.
Recommended Tracks: Echoes, Mutiny, Work in Progress, We Do It for the Money Obviously!, To Be Continued...