Oh, so that’s where Set Your Goals got their name from. `90s punk/hardcore act CIV (ex-Gorilla Biscuits / Youth of Today / Judge) finally saw their complete discography come back into print courtesy of Equal Vision. The appropriately titled two-disc set Solid Bond: The Complete Discography collects the band’s two albums and assorted EPs, plus live tracks, demos and an unreleased song or two. At 43 tracks long, the collection is surprisingly bouncy and fun throughout. The duds are few, the energy is high, and it’s about got-damn time these songs got back on the open market.
Solid Bond doesn’t dwell much on nostalgia. Outside of a photo of the actual collected discography and some perfunctory liner notes, the packaging is minimalist. Basic cardboard layout. No self-aggrandizing anecdotes. Heck, there isn’t even a group shot. This collection was meant to let the music speak for itself.
And for at least one disc, the collection unquestionably proves its merit. CD 1 starts with the band’s full-length debut, Set Your Goals, and tacks on the Social Climber EP, a track from the Anti-Matter Compilation and some live recordings. Two unreleased songs, “Blessed” and “Glue,” are also featured, and they fit in perfectly with Set Your Goals' fine blend of pop and punk sensibilities. Like a more streamlined Gorilla Biscuits or H2O, CIV tears through romper-stompers like “Can’t Wait One Minute More” and “Choices Made.” In spite of the aggression, the band also showcases brains over brawn (“Soundtrack for Violence” advocates being anything but) and humor (“Marching Goals” takes the title track’s already pep band-worthy drumbeat to its logical conclusion). The record oscillates between punk (“Set Your Goals”) and hardcore (“Et Tu Brute?”) with equal quality. The live tracks, though a little grainy, further showcase these great posi-jams. The lone clunker is the final song, a demo of “Can’t Wait One Minute More.” After hearing a studio and a live rendition on the very same disc, this hissy, muddled recording is out of place and redundant. Otherwise, it’s all amicable punk rock tunes here.
After hearing disc two, which collects second LP Thirteen Day Getaway, the Secondhand Superstar EP, some demos, and unreleased track “Hard Times Are the Best Times,” it becomes clear why CIV opted for a full-on complete discography instead of two separate releases. Set Your Goals warrants a lavish reintroduction; Thirteen Day Getaway is just the second-rate bonus disc. Originally released on major label Atlantic Records, Getaway is a clear attempt at radio-friendly late `90s pop-rock. It’s got more in common with Matchbox 20 and Smash Mouth than any NYC hardcore band. The first half is pretty jarring, no thanks to overly slick production and vapid songwriting. Granted, the band’s hXc roots start to poke through later on with tracks like “Shout It” and the 34-second “Owner’s Manual.” But the stylistic retreads don’t elevate Getaway from its merely OK status. While the three demos peel some of the gloss, they can’t save bland pop-rock like “Secondhand Superstar.”
At the same time, though, Getaway isn’t a bad record. It’s just disappointing coming after Set Your Goals. Getting back to the Matchbox 20 comparison, it’s a hell of a lot better than Mad Season (but arguably worse than Third Eye Blind’s Blue. Discuss). Like Token Entry’s The Re-Issues, Solid Bond features one essential album and its kind-of-good-I-guess followup. Average out a five-star and a three-star record, and you still get a pretty great four-star release.