by Keavin Wiggins
Welcome to “Collective” a new series here
at Rocknworld, which is a bit of a different spin on our “What’s in a Label”
series. Instead of profiling a label, we will look at some of the artists
on a specific label or genre of music, collectively. Our recent look
at the Raw Rock Revival with bands like The Vines, The Strokes, The White
Stripes, BRMC and the Hives was really our first unofficial kick off to
this series but now we are ready to make it official with this month’s
look at MCA Records and their rock roster.
MCA seemed the perfect choice to officially
kick things off with since we are currently running a special with them
and they were kind enough to send us a whole stack of CD’s from their rock
While MCA has had it’s ups and downs in
the past, but in recent years that have emerged as one of the only major
labels that really get the genre of music many refer to as “punk-pop”.
Some many argue that some of the bands on their roster like Blink-182 are
more power-pop than punk, nevertheless MCA has really lead the way for
the genre with a cohesive roster of bands that have succeeded in the punk-pop
world. Sure other labels have punk-pop bands but MCA really seems to have
a clear focus on the genre so in essence they are to punk-pop what Roadrunner
is to nu-metal. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on your taste
in music. MCA has found a niche for themselves and have served the fans
of this genre well by fulfilling their need for punk-pop music with plenty
of bands to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Unlike Roadrunner where half of the bands on their roster are pretty indistinguishable
from one another, MCA’s rock roster is filled with bands that bring something
of their own to the table. And MCA isn’t a one trick pony, as you will
learn from the profiles that follow. They are a clear leader in the pop-punk
realm; but they don’t put all of their eggs in one basket either and actually
have a pretty eclectic rock roster.
Now that we’ve covered the basis of this
feature, let’s look at the bands.
No look at MCA’s rock roster would be complete
without a quick glance at Blink-182, one of the clear leaders of the punk-pop
genre. Some question that label, since Blink’s music tends to be
on the more melodic side of spectrum and really has very little semblance
to authentic punk rock. But as some people have pointed out, they may act
as a gateway artist of sorts to open the doors of true punk rock for some
fans. In some ways they are to punk what Bon Jovi and Def Leppard
are to heavy metal, a more slickly polished and melodic distant cousin.
And like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard in the 80’s, Blink-182 has succeeded
with their talents for crafting songs with plenty of hooks that put a big
smile on the faces of radio programmers and attract an audience with their
hits songs that sneak into your head and don’t want to leave.
You can’t look at Blink-182 without looking at their image or antics either,
which is as much a part of their appeal as their music. The band isn’t
shy and will take every opportunity to do something outrageous like appearing
nude on camera or on stage. To critics of the band, it all appears to be
a gimmick and maybe it is but there is no denying that it has worked for
them. The biggest problem for Blink-182 is the punk-pop designation. Because
if you took that label away and listened to music without all of the preconceived
notions, you end up seeing a pretty solid power-pop band with a penchant
for hit songwriting. Many rock purist, especially punk purist automatically
write the band off because of the link to “punk-pop”, which has really
been a double-edge sword for the band; on one hand that label attracts
a young audience that is looking for some safe rebellion and finds nu-metal
and other forms of heavier music, well too heavy. Nothing fits the
bill better than “punk-pop” and Blink-182 have been clear leaders in the
commercial “punk-pop” world. On the other hand, the punk faithful find
an easy target in Blink-182 and are quick to point out the band’s lack
of true punk credentials. They say if you want real punk with a pop edge
or power-pop with a punk edge to check out All and Bodyjar or even the
Ramones, but the music by those artists isn’t as easily accessible to the
mainstream as Blink-182’s.
The bottom line is if you forget the “punk-pop”
label and listen to the music, you may find a lot of enjoy. Sure, they
aren’t the next Beatles of even The Ramones but Blink-182’s music taken
on it’s own merits is fun filled guitar driven power-pop with plenty of
melodic hooks and solid songwriting.
When judging by the music alone and not
looking at sales and popularity, Finch are one of the leaders of the “punk-pop”
world. Where most bands that fall into the punk-pop or “emo” category tend
to have a cookie cutter sound that’s fairly predictable, Finch sets themselves
clearly apart from the rest of the pack by focusing on the heavy side of
the spectrum which really lands them in between the world’s of modern rock,
hard core and punk-pop. This isn’t power-pop with a punk edge; this is
heavy rock with a melodic twist.
The quality of the music and songwriting is undeniable, Finch’s full-length
debut, “What It Is to Burn” sounds like a veteran band with years of gigging
and songwriting under their belt produced it. When in fact, they have been
together a short period of time and their climb to success has been rapid.
It’s an instance of the right musical personality getting together and
finding a magic spark that few bands are able to latch onto.
Nate Barcalow's vocals really win the day
here, while not overly distinct, Nate is a rock solid vocalist, applying
aggression where it is needed and countering the heavy intensity of the
music with melody the rest of the time.
Finch’s music has some of the elements
you have come to expect from punk-pop groups but they take things to a
much deeper level than their counter parts and in all honestly at times
sound like a heavy modern rock band or nu-metal group. Instead of a collection
of radio friendly hits, the band mixes things up and aren’t afraid to go
hard-core like we hear on a song like “Grey Matter”, which is three parts
hard-core and one part melodic heavy rock. The musicianship is anything
but simplistic, yes you get more power-chords than you can handle but the
songs also have competent rhythm tracks and some memorable guitar leads.
This is most clearly heard on a track like “Awake” which contains a wall
of sound that would make Phil Spector stand up and take notice.
Finch are clearly a few notched above their
contemporaries and their debut album is far more than anyone could hope
for. They are a band to keep a keen eye on and not one you can easily dismiss.
Finch are the genuine article and do themselves proud with “What It Is
to Burn”, it’s hard to imagine them topping this album so we will just
have to wait and see what they come up with next, but if this CD is any
indication, whatever they decide to do as an encore will rock!
New Found Glory
Out of all of the bands profiled in their
feature, New Found Glory are easily the band that most fits the “punk-pop”
mold. They have that distinctive mix of chugga-chugga guitars, nasal tinged
vocals and more harmonies than a barbershop quartet, that clearly define
Because of their strict adherence to the rules of the genre, New Found
Glory, don’t stand out that much from their contemporaries. They have that
upbeat, snap your fingers, bouncing quality you would expect from a “punk-pop”
group. What sets them apart from other bands churning out the same brand
of music is their songwriting, which is a bit more focused and while the
songs do tend to run together with not enough distinctive elements employed
to make them stand out from each other, New Found Glory have a penchant
for writing radio-friendly tunes.
This new CD is a no brainer for fans of
the “punk-pop” genre, if you liked their self-titled album, you will enjoy
their latest effort, “Sticks & Stones”. The songs have a melodic appeal
that may draw in new fans to the genre. On the other hand, there is nothing
really new and exciting being delivered by New Found Glory. True, they
are one of the better bands in the whole “punk-pop” spectrum but they pretty
much maintain the status quo and don’t venture far from the set pattern.
That being said, their songwriting is a few notches above the bands they
are competing with, which explains why they are one of the more popular
groups in the genre.