One of the most dismaying aspects of being (what my students consider) old is discovering that bands and genres you loved as a teenager are now sufficiently old enough to hold retro cache for today’s youth. The glut of records having 20th birthdays in the coming months serves as a reminder that those teenage years are some way behind me!
Which is a roundabout way of saying that the mid noughties pop-punk scene is now sufficiently old to be influencing a new generation of artists. One of those groups is Meet Me @ The Altar. They’ve been around and on the hype radar for a while, releasing singles and EPs and building a buzz. This, however, is their first full length.
Their influences are clear throughout, but what’s impressive is that they remain just musical hat tips. Rather than ever sounding like they’re simply aping those influences, the band have instead managed to form their own distinct musical identity. Something that helps, despite their relative youth, is the maturity on display. Unlike some of the bands they are influenced by, you won’t find fart jokes or crass humour here. Instead, the songs are marked out by their sincerity. Although there is the same level of solipsism that could be found in that classic wave of pop-punk, here it is generally more reflective, self lacerating even.
Despite its title suggesting it is going to be a throwaway slice of pop, ‘T.M.I.’ is actually a vulnerable and painful exploration of self loathing. The music is pure bubblegum pop punk, and the contrast between music and lyrics makes it subject matter oddly all the more stark. ‘Need Me’ is similarly clear eyed and unvarnished in its look at a relationship gone wrong – the singing voice realising that there’s “no happy ever after”.
Across the record, the lyrics are direct and prosaic rather than poetic. But this directness marries well with the earnestness, lending the songs a sense of authenticity that works to their advantage. They come across like an unfiltered burst of communication from their creator’s psyche.
It’s not all doom and gloom, either. ‘It’s Over For Me’, with its confident assertion that “there’s no chance I’m taking you back” and frenetic stabs of guitar, is a two fingered salute of a song, seeing freedom and strength in the end of a relationship, rather than heartbreak. And ‘Try’ with it’s self-help chorus of “least I try” finds a chunk of light at the end of the tunnel.
The band are also capable of mixing things up, operating outside of the confines of pop-punk when they want to. ‘A Few Tomorrows’ is a heartfelt acoustic ballad that turns the sincerity seen elsewhere on the record into a touching love song.
There is some filler, as you’d expect from a band’s first record. A few of the songs land less effectively than the others. ‘Kool’, with it’s forgettable riff and half-hearted chorus is a good example of this. As accomplished as the record is for the most part, it’s still the sound of a band finding its feet.
But that is nitpicking. In general, this is a winningly energetic, catchy and sincere blend of pop-punk. Although I am definitely not its target audience, I was won over. I’ll be interested to see what they do next.
Words by Will Collins
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