From my personal (and often cynical and/or jaded) perspective, most once energetic young punk bands tend to grow increasingly mellow, stale, and formulaic as time grinds on. It just has to be the loss of youth (and its accompanying vibrancy) which causes this phenomenon, and which causes so many once promising new pop-punk acts to go through the motions more and more often on their later albums.
Children 18:3 are no such band. When last we heard from them, the Minnesota power trio had released a short but maddeningly sweet demo (covered in a previous edition of HHH) entitled You Take Me Places I Don't Want to Go. That tiny EP couldn't sound more outdated to these ears now. Though absurdly catchy, Places> nonetheless lacked that separates great bands from merely mediocre ones. With Songs of Desperation, Children 18:3 have added such passion, such energy, such drive, one can't help but respect them for it. The songs have upped everything; structures are more complex, the instruments are better played, and those vocals that so impressed me last time around are now much leaner, meaner, and more aggressive. The end result is wildly catchy yet convicted Oh! pop-punk rock that captures a sense of paranoid, anxious yearning I haven't gotten from this genre of music in years. This band is so hungry you can almost feel it oozing out of your speakers as they play; the only thing Children 18:3 are Desperate for is your attention, and you can bet they'll grab it with relative ease.
"LCM" kicks things off with such a bang it knocked me off my seat. Exploding power chords transition into a rising climax powder keg that blows with rousing, fist-pumping choruses and surprising banshee shrieks I never knew the vocalists had lying in them. I can say without any doubt this is the best pop-punk tune I've heard AND subsequently liked in two years or more.
"You Know We're All So Fond of Dying" has wavy pop hooks and dueling vocals that rise and chant with colliding abandon in this song. A cowbell breakdown rears its infectious head as the words "Please stop using us" calls out. With songs this well-crafted, why would anyone want to? "Homemade Valentine" meshes driving, clean verses with sharp-tongued lyrical jabs and wailing sing-alongs. This one will be a favorite of fans in the live setting some day.
"Yesterday's Song" starts with a rollicking bassline before kicking into a palm-muted ballad Dude Ranch era Blink-182 could have written. Great work by the rhythm section on this one! "The Cowboy Song" is a tight rock tribute to cowboy culture. I seriously didn't see this coming, and yet somehow 18:3 make the odd idea work relatively seamlessly.
"Who They Are" soars with beefy arena rock aplomb and mature, stately vocals. This is one of the band's most crisp, perfected songs to date. "Abandoned" is a lush, twisty pop rock shimmy with tons of memorable hooks and a nice solo or two. It is readily apparent that guitarist David has really stepped up his game. "Theme Song" crackles with excellent bass notes and is a great close to this album, which could have ended with anyone of these great songs.
So much progress in so little time! Rousing, rocking, and fun, stuff like this keeps me from despising poppier music. I'm going to guess these guys could be a very popular band down the road. Highly recommended.
2. You Know We're All So Fond of Dying
3. Homemade Valentine
4. Yesterday's Song
5. The Cowboy Song
6. Who They Are
8. Theme Song