Every so often bands live up to their buzz.
Rumspringer popped onto my radar through the defunct Dangerous Intersections series of 4-way splits from Traffic Street Records. I had one song at home on the comp., but it never got me deeper into the band’s catalog. Here comes 2013 and the band has released Stay Afloat on Dirt Cult Records—a quick candidate to make the Year End list come December-January.
The style of the band is a familiar one; basically right up my alley while remaining hard to pin to quick-label genre terminology. There’s pop-punk at the core, but semi-rough and expressive vocals laid over guitars that both wind and pound their way to expressing the core emotions. The predominant force comes via melodies and well-timed choruses, but the song structures and deliberate, plotted compositions showcase those emotions rather than lobbing them over the plate and swinging for the fences, well exemplified in the build-ups that occurs in “Emotional Void Fraction” and “Tourists and Vagabonds.” Meanwhile, the guitars in “Not the Advice I Was Looking For” have me thinking Jawbreaker—a comparison I don’t make lightly (even if 75% of onesheets out there do). It’s not particularly aggressive music, instead letting the melody carry it while the vocals convey more contemplative lyrics instead of sloganeering. It’s the stuff you’re supposed to sit and listen to, not just jump off the stage to.
Of course, this style has a few downsides, namely a tendency to come across as dramatic. “Duct Tape and Sheer Will,” while a standout on the record, has a few elements of this, and the “Oh, Andrea/ Do you feel the way I feel tonight?” of “A Different Wavelength” is maybe a touch on the direct and personal side. Still, these “faults” are easily overcome. In “A Different Wavelength,” that’s followed with a brilliant “Something is inherently wrong tonight” lyrics that pops the intrigue into play and resurrects a tone of vague understanding and relation to the music without being overcome by voyeurism. Plus, I find the use of “inherent” to be somewhat representative of their lyrical approach: it’s no highfalutin GRE vocabulary word, but it’s not every day street slang either. Rumspringer are some smart cookies, but they don’t wave it in your face.