Unlikely as it seems, it does happen on occasion. Pop-punk bands grow up. Blink-182 did it and met with great success, The Ataris did it and will likely be met with the realization that they should have stuck to their previous style. Now it’s Sugarcult’s turn…and the results are in.
Mission impossible? Mission successful.
Trust me when I tell you it pains me in some respects to admit this, but what Sugarcult have done with Lights Out is create a solid and enjoyable pop-rock record. I’ve never been a fan of the band, but the infectious melodies and solid songs here are causing me to sit on the other side of the fence. It seems the entire band has gone through a real maturation process that shows up in just about every facet of their songwriting. First off, singer Tim Pagnotta has taken himself from the depths of pop-punk dredges to a sound that really becomes him. His voice has deepened, his inflection become more earnest, and overall approach is far more suited to this style than the vapid nonsense the previous two albums offered.
What we have now is a seasoned effort from the last band I’d have expected it from. These songs ooze energy and an extremely youthful honesty. “Dead Living” puts anyone listening on notice as to just how much this four-piece has truly grown. While the verses aren’t the most memorable musical moments I’ve ever heard, the chorus is truly an engaging and exuberant display that bodes well for the other eleven songs on the album. Without reinventing the wheel, this one song proves they’ve saved a career formerly an inch from drowning. “Made a Mistake” is one of their forays into a slower tempo, and while it doesn’t quite hold the infectious quality that many of the faster tracks do, it’s still got its charm. Shimmering chord progressions and a simple beat are all it takes for Pagnotta to croon over, and the pace lends itself well to the chance for individual members to display their contributions to the overall fabric of the band.
This is a truly solid record from one of the last groups I’d have expected it from. There’s still some silly lyrics and musical missteps, but the growth and maturity inherent in this four-piece is nothing if not a very pleasant surprise. They’ve come a long way since bouncing off the walls, and they’ve really settled into a comfort level that could very well see them develop into a band to watch for.