One of the reasons I gravitate toward the pop-end of the punk spectrum is because it lacks pretention. The structures are straightforward and honest, often predictable to such a fault that it’s become cliché. That’s why an album like Developing A Theory of Integrity is so refreshing. The overall sound is gruff pop-punk with a verse-chorus-verse foundation and a lot of emotion. However, it turns many of those conventions on their side. The songs are almost all over 3-minutes long and they rise and fall, like wave after wave, but coasting in their rhythm without a violent crash against an imaginary shoreline at the end.
Developing A Theory of Integrity is a powerful 10-song trip that’s equal parts enthusiasm, enjoyment, lament and loss. It’s all of those things at once, steadily flowing instead of moving spastically from one emotion to another. It’s got depth.
Two songs that really showcase MakeWar’s style are “Tiger Lili” and “On Feelings,” coming right after it. With “Tiger Lili,” it’s definitely a pop structure but the drum fills lead into a crescendo chorus that hits emotional peaks without any drastic pitfalls on the other side. It’s drawn out instead of dramatic and that gives it a tempered, cathartic feeling even without resorting to audience-pandering sing-alongs (nothing against that, of course). The tempo of “On Feelings” is best described as mid-tempo. It’s not a ballad by a long shot, but the beat slows enough to let everything fully sink in and take it’s time. If the Descendents are about teenagers hyped up on caffeine, MakeWar is what happens then you put down the coffee mug and come home after a 10-hour shift.
While the band masters mid-tempo well, the closing track, “Dust,” is a bit too much for me. At over 5-minutes it’s easily the slowest song on the record and, while I can’t think of another descriptor, it doesn’t really feel like a ballad with those scratchy vocals and slow-mo whoa-ohs. Developing A Theory of Integrity shows that you can capture emotion through tone and progression as well as dynamics and tempo. Punk rawk for those with a mortgage and crow’s-feet.
7.4 / 10
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