Flashlight and I have a bit of a history, so to speak. I think theyâ??ve played during every stage of my musical journey and participation in the punk scene. I remember them opening for the Smugglers at St. Catharine's now closed Mind Bomb as a young energetic ska-punk band that stole the show. Their tracks on Stomp's "All Skanadian Club" series soundtracked all types of parties and road trips in my high school years. Years later they played my frosh week along with Grade, my first show in University. Hell I've since moved to their hometown.
So it was strange for me to hear that big US major label Hollywood Records were signing them. To see Rob Cavallo, producer of both "Dear You" and "Dookie" credited on the back of their album is something I never expected to see.
"My Degeneration" seems like something of a transitionary album for the band. They're no longer the young ska-punk band of ol' but not quite the big Foo Fighters style rock act they seem to be growing into.
As much as I see Flashlight Brown billed on pop punk tours, they really manage to avoid numerous pitfalls of that genre. Their sound is much more muscular than many of their peers. Where a similar band would insert a stereotypical 2003 pop punk facet *, Flashlight tends to jump into a very well placed traditional rock'n'roll guitar solo. Along with this Cavallo thankfully left a lot of the grit in the songs. The lead vocals sound like that of a real person and not a studio-perfected robot.
"Ready To Roll" is a pure early-Weezer geek song disguised as a driving rock anthem. Tracks like "Patricia," "Looking Away" and "Loose The Shades" provide a great balance between pop hooks and punk rock muscle. Of course, with all the humour the band injects into their songs some of it undoubtedly falls short. If you're expecting the skittering upstroke guitar of yesterday, with the exception of a few flourishes "My Degeneration" won't satisfy. Also the majority of the of tracks here are re-imagined versions of songs they're recorded on their past few albums. While the group was likely pressured to put all their best material to use on their breakthrough American release, it's sure to leave a few old fans scratching their heads.
"My Degeneration" has its flaws but manages to very respectably re-establish Flashlight Brown as a good pop-punk act that hasn't compromised making good, fun rock music in the name of marketability.
* "stereotypical 2003 pop punk facet" meaning any combination of the following: (1) a beat that allows for perfect synchronized jumping (2) a marketable emo verse of sappy sentimentality that doesn't fit the song (3) a trendy and entirely unnecessary scream in an otherwise non-hardcore song (4) impossible to reproduce 15-20 part harmonies, etc.