by Soupy USER (7 Reviews)
December 5th, 2021 | 5 replies

Release Date: 10/29/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The best pop-punk band you've never heard of since Spanish Love Songs

The title of this review is obviously a bold shout to anybody who first discovered the brilliant Spanish Love Songs and "Schmaltz" in the last few years, but if you are feeling like a sceptic, then I implore you to lend just twenty-four minutes of your time to Driveways and their 2021 album "Skeptic".

There's not a massive amount of information or interviews circling the internet for this as of yet unsigned three piece from Saugus, Massachusetts, but the Boston-based band manage to incorporate elements of pop-punk, emo and post-hardcore together and the end result is an amalgamation of sounds from the last two decades in the Warped Tour and Slam Dunk scenes of North America and the UK.

One of the bands that Pat Finnegan, guitarist and lead vocalist, states that has had the biggest influence on their sound is blink-182. You can definitely hear that in this record, although it's definitely more of a broodier self-titled aesthetic than an all-out upbeat pop-punk anthems vibe of earlier blink records.

Finnegan has also gone on record to state that two of the albums that inspired him the most growing up were emo-classics "Tell All Your Friends" by Taking Back Sunday and Tom Delonge's "Box Car Racer" self-titled album. The band as a collective are also into post-hardcore bands like Thursday and Saosin, with their drummer, Ryan Passariello, even taking influence from the likes of Oceans Ate Alaska and August Burns Red. Passariello and bassist/backing vocalist Derek Serino have previously played together in heavier post-hardcore bands before this project, with their chemistry as well as the heavier sound coming through during the course of this album, with Passariello's drumming especially giving it a rougher edge for a pop-punk record.

"You asked me, what the hell is up with the obsession with the Fall?" is the first line that Finnegan sings on the album, with 'Obsession' at times acting as a fourth-wall break for a band who have self defined as an Autumnal-themed band throughout the early stages of their career. The band's 2020 record was titled "October Forever", and they even released this album at the height of Fall, just 2 days shy of Halloween in 2021. The opening track itself has a melodic emo pop-punk vibe to it, with the track at various points giving off a feel similar to that of modern emo-rap acts like nothing,nowhere and KennyHoopla. It's a solid opener and sets the tone for the rest of the record.

"Skeptic", the song from which the album gets its name is the next song up, and in terms of all out pop-punk bangers this is the stand-out track of the record. If you only sample one of the songs from this album you'd be best placed to make it this one. The song to me sounds like a perfect amalgamation of the best elements of modern pop-punk bands like Spanish Love Songs and Seaway, the track keeps the melodic aesthetic but is catchy and energetic enough that if it had come out in the early 2000's it would probably still be getting played at pop-punk alternative nights at clubs and festivals all over the world to this day.

"78" starts off with a broadcast extract from 1978, as a news anchor covers the story of a devastating winter snow-storm that ravaged Massachusetts in February that year. Finnegan navigates a storm of his own, seemingly both literally and emotionally, as he struggles with his feelings for what appears to be an ex-lover despite his best efforts to convince himself that "I'm alright" in the song's bridge. Finnegan even throws in a nice Box Car Racer reference, as he pines that "If Watch the World wasn't playing I wouldn't be asking you to stay".

The next track is where Driveways' experimentation and post-hardcore elements really come to centre stage. For anyone expecting a fully melodic pop-punk album they'll get a rude awakening as "Sea in Storm" comes crashing out of the gates with metalcore style screams. Whilst I wouldn't say this song or the heavier elements of this record are completely similar to A Day To Remember's heavier efforts, when you talk about heavier sounding pop-punk they are of course the standard for which other bands will be compared to. I personally think that A Day To Remember could be proud to have a track as good as "Sea In Storm" in their back catalogue, with the bridge of this song acting as the calm of the storm's eye and Finnegan's softly sung "there's something watching over me" is arguably the biggest ear-worm from the entire album.

It is almost inevitable that on every pop-punk album in modern times that there will be one "slow" one. They are often a source of dread and are a lot easier to get wrong than they are right. Of the modern pop-punk bands I would say that The Story So Far are probably one of the strongest at this particular acoustic leaning softer ballad type song - and at times during "Constant Sorrow", Finnegan does sound stylistically quite similar to how Parker Cannon sings on The Story So Far's slower efforts. I wouldn't say this track is a particular highlight of the record, but in the context of the album given that it follows the heaviest song on there I don't think it's particularly out of place and acts as a nice change of pace before the record comes to a close.

"Telescope" follows and is essentially an interlude track where Driveways experiment with a variety of different elements. It starts off by pressing home the fall aesthetic with an intro fade that wouldn't be out of place in a Stranger Things soundtrack. The song brings in a sci-fi and UFO theme stylistically, with the track featuring excerpts from a declassified radio conversation of the U.S Navy watching a UFO. The 2 minute interlude also features Finnegan experimenting with his vocals, again at points sounding a bit like the emo-rap that's become so popular in the last few years. These 3 elements shouldn't really work together, but it's a credit to Driveways that this interlude is actually quite good and a good insight into the brave, boundary pushing band they could become with more experience behind them.

"UFOS in the Sky" as the title suggests sees the "UFO" theme continue, but Driveways return to the melodic-pop punk anthem that they are so fantastic at crafting. This track really sounds like it could have fit right into A Day To Remember's incredible "Homesick" album and it would by no means have been lost in the shuffle of it. The final song on the album, it serves as a fantastic closer and throughout this track Finnegan incorporates lyrics and elements from the other songs on the track. I've seen the band criticised by some online for calling back lyrics from earlier songs in their album in later tracks, but given the almost Stephen King/Stranger Things-esque aesthetic they go for I feel like using flashbacks is a nice narrative device that works in that sense - and whilst "UFOs in the Sky" isn't quite "I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral", Driveways certainly show on this record they could one day put out an album as as good as The Wonder Years' "The Greatest Generation".

Finnegan stated in a recent interview on Reddit that given all of the band have full-time jobs, two of them as teachers, they've not yet found it financially viable to be able to tour in the States, let alone elsewhere. Skeptic is still an album written and performed by a band a little rough around the edges perhaps still discovering their final sound, but the production job that Tom Iannello does on this record is absolutely brilliant and helps showcase the staple of the pop-punk scene that Driveways have the ability and potential to become.

If this band with their eclectic mix of old school and new school pop-punk and emo reference points, as well as some genuinely brilliant songs don't get a on a few half decent tours in the States or get over to play Slam Dunk Festival in the UK within the next 3-4 years then we as a scene have failed them.

Recent reviews by this author
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user ratings (7)

Comments:Add a Comment 
December 5th 2021


Album Rating: 4.5

A bit longer than I would've liked and I'm a bit rusty as I haven't written a review in over 3 years, quite fittingly actually my last one on here actually was for "Schmaltz". Similarly to that album with this band and the record it's so good and they seem to be so slept on generally that I almost felt like I "had" to review this to help try and get it out there.

December 6th 2021


Album Rating: 3.5

I remember stumbling upon this on my spotify discover. This album is surprisingly awesome, catchy, fresh and interesting. They bounce from pop punk, emo, to straight up screamo. Really fun record!

December 6th 2021


Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, this was also a random Spotify discovery for me. Definitely one of those "wait, who is this? this is great!" moments.

December 6th 2021


Will check

Digging: Geese - Projector

December 8th 2021


Album Rating: 4.0

Facts, this band is crazy good.

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