Chock Full of Misery as a title sets a bleak tone for a group best labeled as pop-punk. Yet, New Bruises don’t let the downer subject matter override their energetic and singalong anthems. In song titles past and present, the group has namedropped both Kurt Vonnegut and Johnny Cash—and both are apt examples for New Bruises common tone of frustration, resignation and, ultimately, rebellion.
While the band really isn’t doing anything new, they do it well and fans of the style (such as myself) should eat it up. It’s singalong, verse chorus verse, mad-at-the-world punk delivered with a smile on their face instead of a scowl, and the band’s live shows reflect a positivity that isn’t really indicated by the lyrical material in the songs. Think somewhere between The Descendents and modern Midwest pop-punk for this Tampa, FL group. Chock Full of Misery is only New Bruises second album, with their first, Transmit! Transmit being issued back in 2006. In the meantime, they’ve released a slew of 7-inches and compilation tracks, and frontman Bryon Lippincott also runs Kiss of Death Records. All that aside, how about an actual record review?
With Misery, the band has found their own sound a bit more. The debut aped more pop-punk structures, whereas here the guitars drive in a more distinct style and the tempo variances between songs gives a strong differentiation. There are a lot of up and down moments in the music, peaking at the chorus in cathartic exclamations and, generally, wavering between powerful chords, as in “It Always Comes in Threes” and “Is Nature the Key,” and more melodic, slowed down moments during the verses. In “There Was Only One Johnny Cash,” the vocals come in a call-and-response style between members (taking its titular cue from a reference to the phrase “walk the line”). It’s one of the best tracks on the record and serves as an adequate example of their sound, playing off melodic choruses, driving guitar chords, and anthemic vocals throughout. Some harder influences seep into songs like “Day In, Day Out” and they aren’t afraid to slow things down with “Five Questions.”
While the record doesn’t necessary jump out on first listen, with repeated spins the nuance of New Bruises’ songwriting give a powerful boost that holds up well as familiarity sets in, separating them from many within the genre. Those who prefer their punk to be comprised of easy-to-memorize slogans may not approve, but if you like melody delivered with a smile, but generally touching on cynicism about life’s foibles, Chock Full of Misery is a keen place to start.
7.2 / 10
Posted March 20, 2014, 9:18 p.m.
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