If any recently formed pop-punk band were to have their album characterized as 'MxPx B-sides,' wouldn't one think it's a terribly detrimental comment to receive?
SideOneDummy doesn't think so apparently, and thus, Let's Rock. The 12-song album is culled from a collection of previously unreleased material, re-recorded B-sides, and acoustic demos -- essentially something thrown together to complete their contract with SideOneDummy.
MxPx's second-to-last collection of B-sides served as a mighty introduction to 'punk rock' for young skate punks everywhere in 1998, that album being Let It Happen. It also probably sounded incredible at the time, even if many may relegate it as good for nothing but nostalgic value today. Let's Rock is not likely to gleam with that same lasting value, nor act as any sort of gateway, but for MxPx B-sides post-2000, it's not terrible at least -- just really uneven.
See, lucky for MxPx fans, this was also released only a year after 2005's Panic, arguably a huge step up from 2003's dismal Before Everything and After (and, probably their best proper effort since 1998's Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo). This is why a couple of pretty solid tracks are present on Rock, but they're alongside lots of stuff that probably wasn't released simply because it wasn't that good.
The first concern with the compilation, however, is its focal point, the opener "You Walk, I Run." It's not a bad song by any means -- in fact, it's probably one of Let's Rock's standouts. However, the chorus is cheesy and it's one of Mike Herrera's most nasal performances yet. Worse: Both problems are made even more obvious in the acoustic version -- luckily it's placed last in the track listing, so the album can be prevented from ending on a sour note.
The hits here are all in the first quarter -- you've got "Every Light," a nice throwback that sounds nearly Life in General-era, and "1 and 3," which shows off some momentary flashes of aggression not heard since Pokinatcha's days.
However, once the album reaches past that section it feels like we've stumbled back into the latter A&M era. The middle section is really dull and plain, while shaky pseudo-ballads like "Don't Forget Me (When You're Gone)" and "Where Did You Go?" are just sort of queasy; the former touches upon the nerves with its repetitive chorus of "my heart still hurts" and the latter comes off like some ill-conceived Simple Plan / Lit combination.
Out of the three acoustic tracks tacked on the end, "You Walk, I Run" isn't even the worst. "Sweet Sweet Thing"'s narrative is certainly compelling, but that's because it sounds like Herrera pulled it out of a decade-old journal ("Her dad asked what I did, I said I played in a band / He said he 'hated devil music and he wasn't a fan / Musicians can't be trusted and your job is a joke / I don't want my daughter spending her life broke'"). What some might call honest and heartfelt I call embarrassing and running terribly low on ideas.
With a reissue of Let It Happen due soon it feels like MxPx's compilations file is becoming greatly oversaturated, and nothing makes it more obvious than Let's Rock, a mostly boring effort that clearly isn't the band's fault as greater forces attempt to stretch them out for every song they're worth.
You Walk, I Run