I would liken the development of Takeover's roster to the early years of Dexter Holland's Nitro Records. With Holland signing acts like TSOL, the Damned and the Vandals, as well as re-issuing the Offspring's earlier works, the label reflected music that Holland grew up with and influenced him. Ben Harper, formerly of Yellowcard, has used Takeover Records both as a vehicle to re-issue pre-major label Yellowcard releases, and to give skatepunk and pop-punk bands that influenced Yellowcard an outlet for new releases. In putting out great albums by veterans Bracket, River City High, Inspection 12, and Hey Mike!, and coupled with their exceptional customer service (my package arrived in two days [!] after a slight mix-up in handling), Takeover is fast becoming one of my favorite record labels.
Within the first five or six songs, I was thinking Get Rad was one of the best (if not the best) pop-punk record in the last five years. It turns out that there are a couple throwaway songs, but this record still contains more gems than Lil Jon's teefus.
Inspection 12 is no standard pop-punk. Sure, the Ramones and their imitators (Screeching Weasel, the Queers, Teenage Bottlerocket, the Lillingtons, Mr. T Experience, etc.) are really good and enjoyable, but Inspection 12 takes pop-punk to another level. The songs on Get Rad are full-scale compositions, with multi-part harmonies, chord changes, variations, and enough twists and turns to make you dizzy. If a benchmark is necessary, the band's presentation is much more similar to the Descendents, which is ironic since Suburban Home handled distro for Get Rad before I-12 signed with Takeover.
"Homesick," which is the first track on the album -- and coincidentally the strongest -- showcases all of the strengths mentioned above. It's wonderfully catchy and heartfelt, with too many unique parts to even keep count. "Coup de Grace" follows, and an experienced I-12 listener will be able to hear the re-working of the band's relic "Only Human" which came from their 1997 self-titled effort. Actually, Get Rad contains several updated and improved old songs, including "A Better Friend," "Nothing to Lose," and "Labels Are for Cans." The latter of these includes a welcome change in lyrics, from "cool or gay in the 1999 version to "cool or lame" in the 2003 version -- remember Inspection 12 was started in 1994 when each of the members ranged in age from 11-14 and they've obviously matured considerably since then. "Feelin' Like Freddie" is another standout track, an upbeat tune with a jazzy guitar solo and steady pounding piano chords. The lighthearted "You Can Call Me Al" sounds like it was jacked straight from John Mellencamp's hit "Jack and Diane," but the bubblegum pop melody and down-to-earth lyrics make it not even matter.
"Home" is practically one towering guitar solo set to a skatepunk rhythm, and proof that Inspection 12's guitar playing is some of the best in the genre, right up there with "the Chrises" in Lagwagon and the boys of Strung Out. "Again" has been available on Purevolume for a few years, but its touching message and unique structure made listening again a treat. The only two of the seventeen tracks that aren't near-flawless are the jokey cow-poke "The Naked at School Dream" and "Terrified," with the lyrics "It knows when you've been sleeping and it knows when you're awake" in a melody that I already hear approximately 118 times each Christmas season and would rather not hear anymore. However, the amusement isn't lost, as thoughts of the Exploited singing "Fuck a Mod" to the tune of "Jinglebells" instantly fill the head.
According to the CD booklet, Get Rad took nearly a year to finish, beginning on August 11th, 2002 and reaching completion on August 4th, 2003. It certainly shows in the music. The precision, the complexity, the passion, the meticulous attention to detailā?¦it all comes together in the end. The fact that it took nearly four years for a review of this album is injustice enough. Do yourself a favor and go grab a copy of this so you can hear for yourself.