Through its storied history, melodic hardcore has certainly had its ups and downs. Arguably, it was the youth-crew groups that got the ball rolling, but possibly a more direct influence was derived from the poppy take that bands like the Descendents, ALL, Down by Law and many others chose.
Regardless, almost all bands that get categorized under the giant hardcore umbrella suffer the same fate...early termination. Be it lack of motivation, the burden of touring or just simply "growing out of that phase," the likelihood of a hardcore band lasting more than a few years is almost unheard of. But those that stand the test of time become legends in their own right…
A new Good Riddance album is an event. You always kinda expect it to happen, but don't really get excited until you know it's happening. The added bonus this time around was the curiosity created by the amazing side-project of front-man Russ Rankin, the hardcore all-star-o-rama, Only Crime. This offshoot went in the direction many long-time GR fans had hoped for, the harder edge, but maintained the smooth vocals Russ has practically perfected. You see, for those unfamiliar, over the past 2 albums GR has leaned in a distinctly more melodic direction. And obviously this will generate a mixed reaction. So what about the new album?
Well, it's not Only Crime, that's another band. What you get with My Republic is the Good Riddance sampler platter: some harder, some melodic and some in between. The opening track, "Out of Mind," is the best song Bad Religion never wrote, with the exception of Russ' distinctive vocals. The looping riffs during the chorus sound like something off Generator or Against the Grain, and the entire thing rolls at a circle-pit pace. But of course, the trademark GR bridge with Rankin's classic sneering reminds you of where you are.
Next, we find a problem that so bands' albums have succumbed to. You have one of the album's most boring tracks right after the best one? I'm rocking the fuck out, and suddenly it all comes to a screeching halt with the snoozer, "Texas" (see also: "Regret" followed by "Boise"). I mean, this isn't a horrific track by any means, in fact, if more strategically placed; I may have enjoyed it. But the crawling pace, with partially cliché' lyrics in the chorus, just flat out bore me. Luckily, we're back in business on the next one, "Shame," which for some reason gives me a weird Descendents vibe.
And thus seems to be the constant theme of the album -- pick me up with some great stuff, and then let me down with some "eh" material. Musically and lyrically (for the most part), this is some of the best music Good Riddance has ever done. Unfortunately, it's the delivery that stumbles. Russ's vocals just seem to be lacking that punch they've always had. Even in the truest melodic presentation, you'd eventually hear that bite that you'd always knew existed. And maybe his increased harmony over the past few years has made the edginess in his sound more distinctive, and effective. "Torches and Tragedies" is the perfect example of what we have come to expect. The quick and aurally pleasing sound, with hints of contained ferocity, which always seemed ready to at explode any moment.
So, is it good? Yes. By no means is My Republic a bad album, in fact, I could see it squeezing into my top 20 of the year. But it's such a mixture of sounds that an avid fan such as me can easily be thrown off. Like I said, the sampler. The wings and chicken tenders will be gone immediately, but I'll pick around the other stuff and maybe find something OK.