Active Sac is/was no-nonsense melodic punk from Westminster, Maryland. With driving Descendents-like beats and slightly obscured pop vocals à la Hüsker Dü, this long-coming debut (been together since ’97 and only released EPs in 2004 and 2005) should please fans widely across the genre.
A long time in the making (as well as this review; my bad), Kill All Humans finds the group sharing duties like nobody’s business, with every member contributing to the process, both lyrically and musically. While this is evidence that the band is a no-ego, friendly unit, it could lead to a disjointed album, but doesn't. While the album is eclectic, especially in the framework of melodic punk, the songs (and in turn, songwriters) share a common vision of pop-punk through the '80s underground rock lens (think Our Band Could Be Your Life). Standout “What You Got” keeps it simple while simultaneously firing strong on all cylinders with an addictive chorus hook and a descending guitar line filling in between the vocal phrases, sweet bass fills that cut through (check the bridge-holy Jesus), and solid toe-tapping drums. Opener “Radio Street” has a tasty guitar lead, some backup organ, and a harmonized chorus hook any '90s Lookout! band would be envious of, only with more reverb. Apparently they used to be a Screeching Weasel ripoff act, and I can respect that.
There are a couple weak points, however, such as “Take-Your-Worm-for a-Walk Week” which suffers from forgettable vocals and dum-dum power chords, and the group is far better than that. Side B kicks off (this is one of the few reviews I've written of a release I have exclusively on vinyl -- thanks Wallride!) with the odd choice of the emo-acoustic number “Suckseed/End One.” It isn't the worst acoustic ditty by a pop-punk band I’ve heard, and it nearly saves itself when it turns from the standard sad-sap ballad and clichéd strumming patterns to its sunnier second half, switching to a major key and out-of-first-fret chording. “Us-Itis” has a too-textbook palm-muted chord progression in the verses, but with the catchy guitar lead and vocal lines you likely won’t notice. Active Sac doesn't break the mold or anything (as I spit my own clichés) but the levels of melody and fun on this record are sky-high.
When you get a group of long-time friends making an album you can really hear the love and the teamwork, and as cheesy as that sounds, it truly makes Kill All Humans an awesome time. Unfortunately, I’m so late with this review that the band is already broken up due to their drummer moving to Hawaii. That’s the level of friendship here -- it’s like Bonham/Zep, but nobody here died. You should still grab this and enjoy it, and you will have a posthumous release to look forward to with the full-length Road Soda dropping hopefully some time in the near future.