Throughout the 90's pop-punk was an essential part of most punk and hardcore kids' record collections. Even those whose tastes leaned toward the heavier side of the underground spectrum had a special place in their heart for certain Lookout Records gems. Throughout the early 2000's it seemed that the pop-punk of earlier years had been replaced by a soulless, overproduced version that could achieve radio play and ensure bands spots on lucrative tours. It was only within the past year that I realized a new breed of pop-punk bands with a sound closer to the Lookout glory days were starting to fully emerge fueled by labels such as Crafty, Don Giovanni and Whoa Oh Records as well as distros such as Littletype.
New York vs. New Jersey: Punk Rock Battle Royal serves as a great introduction to the current pop-punk scene. It features eight bands, each contributing two tracks. The battle royal concept entails listeners voting on Crafty Records' website to determine which bands will be featured on an upcoming 7" release. The Ergs, Hunchback, Groucho Marxists, and For Science represent New Jersey, while Lemuria, The Unlovables, Nancy, and The Steinways hold it down for New York.
The Ergs are likely one of the more well known bands on the compilation and deservedly so. They sound like the rightful heirs to the Descendents throne, replete with songs about girls and bass lines that echo Tony Lombardo at his best. The tracks featured on this release are solid, but might leave those who have heard the hype (and still haven't heard the band) a bit disappointed, as they are a half-step below their best material. Those doubting The Ergs' greatness should check out dorkrockcorkrod to fully appreciate their talent.
Lemuria offer up two tracks that are among their best. Sheena Ozella has a gorgeous voice that compliments Kern and Draper's vocals much like the magic of Juliana Hatfield alongside Evan Dando on It's a Shame About Ray. They blend elements of mid-90's alt rock with a pop-punk tone to create a sound that stands out within the genre. These tracks are going to leave people anxiously awaiting a full-length.
Each of Hunchback's songs sound very different. The first is rife with organ parts and rock n roll based whereas the second is frenzied with weird vocals. Both songs are unique and left me interested to hear more.
The Unlovables didn't hit as strong as some of the other bands on first listen, but after repeated plays I find these tracks among my favorite. Hallie has a powerful voice and the witty charm of her lyrics on "Jersey Boy" is on par with the best lyricists in pop-punk.
I've enjoyed other songs by the Groucho Marxists, but these tracks don't hold up to the songwriting featured on the rest of this comp. They are technically sound, but didn't move me.
Nancy sound like a band that would fit in nicely on Asian Man in the late 90's. I hear elements of The Broadways and early Lawrence Arms as well as a bit of the poppier moments on the first two Propagandhi records. The songs feature incredibly melodic parts mixed with leads that serve to enhance the emotional impact of the rhythm guitar and lyrics. These tracks are essential post-breakup material, high praise for any pop-punk band.
For Science play fast, gruff and snotty pop-punk. These songs are in the vein of earlier Screeching Weasel and The Queers material. They aren't forging new ground, but they play the snotty pop sound well and fans of this style should enjoy this.
Much like The Ergs material, I suspect these Steinways tracks aren't fully representative of what their albums sound like. The first track sounds like straightforward Lookout-era pop-punk, while the second is a variation of the song The Ergs play to open up the comp.
The bottom-line is that this is an excellent compilation for anyone interested in a sampling of the quality bands comprising the current pop-punk scene. If you have ignored the genre in recent years for fear that the classic sounds from the 90's were gone for good, you'll be happy to learn that now is a great time for the genre and the current crop of bands aren't simply rehashing what came before. This comp showcases bands that have taken the time to forge their own sound and unlike a lot of compilations that feature throwaway tracks, the bands have provided quality material that, for the most part, represents their respective sounds.
8.0 / 10
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