Off with Their Heads have been incredibly prolific over the past two years. They’ve released splits with the Dukes of Hillsborough, Practice, Blotto, J Church, the Measure [SA] and Tiltwheel, as well as two EPs, a single, and a collections album. More importantly though, they’ve been consistently good. Not one of these releases has been a disappointment.
One half of Dear Landlord is Zack and Brad from Rivethead, a band responsible for one of the greatest contributions to punk rock in the last ten years. The other two Rivethead boys went on to form Banner Pilot, but Dear Landlord are particularly interesting because guitarist/vocalist Zack was responsible for most of Rivethead’s songwriting, while drummer Brad penned their phenomenal lyrics. Dear Landlord’s debut release was this year’s split with Chinese Telephones on It’s Alive Records. It set the bar pretty high.
When I first heard that these two groups would be releasing a split on No Idea this October, I was ecstatic. I figured it would be the best record of 2007.
Is it? The short answer is no, but that’s not to say it isn’t still well worth your money.
When Off with Their Heads kick into action, you may find yourself wondering if you got the wrong record...until the chorus comes in anyway. Remember when you first heard Midwestern Songs of the Americas and after the pop-punk glee of “OKFMDOA,” the band charged into “#51 Dick Butkus”? Well, that’s what this is like. I’m not sure which member sings the verse, but it’s a far cry from regular vocalist Ryan’s usual jagged croon. Fans may need a moment to adjust, but just as was the case with “#51,” soon enough you’ll begin to appreciate the track for what it is, rather than what it’s not. Their second offering, “Splendid Isolation” is also somewhat of a departure from their past records, as Ryan’s voice is much lower and the music is much darker than usual. I remember thinking the cover of this record seemed kind of strange, but now that I’ve heard it, well, the black backdrop and vultures seem kind of appropriate. Whereas past OWTH songs paired desperate lyrics with bouncy pop-punk melodies, in “Splendid Isolation” the music matches the sentiment.
Dear Landlord begin their side with “High Fives,” which had already been available online for some time. The song is a pretty good example of what Dear Landlord do, and here they do it well. I rank it in between the two songs from their debut -- since both were excellent, that’s a very good thing. “Crashing” is another story. It’s a good song, but it sounds more like a Copyrights affair (two members of whom round out this quartet) than what I’ve come to expect from Dear Landlord in their short existence. I’m hesitant to criticize it because, well, first of all, I wouldn’t know how, but it seems like it’s missing something only because it doesn’t grab me the way the other four songs they’ve released thus far do. Maybe another few spins will remedy that though.
This split may not be the record of 2007, but that’s more of a testament to both bands' previous releases this year and the excellent state of punk in general right now. Either way, any fan of good pop-punk would be foolish to pass this one up.