Set Your Goals - Burning at Both Ends (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Set Your Goals

Burning at Both Ends (2011)


Set Your Goals have been navigating treacherous waters from Day 1. After a demo that reignited a scene of full bands with equal reverence for Lifetime, New Found Glory and Saves the Day, the band stuck their necks out and hit it out of the park with their 2006 full-length, Mutiny!, eschewing a trendy style on a qualitative descent in favor of dynamic, ambitious songwriting and raw sincerity. Somewhere along the way, the band's fanbase seemed to split between those who grew up on the band's own, more melodic hardcore-oriented influences, and those who think A Day to Remember is the bee's knees. 2009's This Will Be the Death of Us offered something for both parties. So where does the band's newest effort, Burning at Both Ends, head?

Actually, Burning at Both Ends more closely follows the mid-tempo bounce of Death's "Summer Jam", then adds plenty of gloss across the board. It's pop-punk in the most modern sense, and while its favored production tricks and slower tempos will likely find the band's old fans hanging on by fingernails letting go completely, it avoids the cheese just enough to remain worthwhile...relatively, anyway.

While Death felt largely uneven but still offered knockouts like "This Will Be the Death of Us" and The Fallen...", the highlights on Both Ends only manage to stand out marginally. In opener "Cure for Apathy", Jordan Brown shows how the band's early and primary influences stay true to their core as he cops Tom Delonge's enunciations–as he did for Mutiny! opener "Work in Progress"–for his chorus couplet ("There will be wisdom here in time / and all the stars will be aligned"). "Start the Reactor" is chock full of mostly questionable popcore mosh chugging and basted in vocal effects, but it also has one of Matt Wilson's better performances to date, and the melodies are 100%...competent. You could mostly say the same for cuts like "London Heathrow" and "The Last American Virgin", for all (or in spite of) their radio-friendly guitar tones and maxed-out volume mastering. "Exit Summer" and "Illuminated Youth" are the few moments you get faster tempos, but the former slows it down for a pogo-ing chorus, and neither feel as exhilarating as the band's earlier attempts at melodic hardcore speed.

Lyrically, the band's tackling their familiar stable of themes: motivation; self-esteem maintenance; moving forward; et. al. But there's a few questionable moments. On "London Heathrow", Browns offers the simile, "I rocket back to the earth like an alien," and even as one of the album's biggest hooks, it feels cartoony. Moreover, years ago the band's most seething critics would likely lump them in with a goofball gimmick act like Bowling for Soup, a relatively harsh exaggeration. With "Product of the 80's", it's no longer that far-fetched–this track's essentially an extension of that band's biggest hit, "1985". It's an odd moment for a band built so firmly on a foundation of hardcore-based positivity, offering little besides a platform for Brown and Wilson to drop more pop culture references than "My Name Is".

Although Burning at Both Ends is Set Your Goals' sophomore effort for Epitaph, it feels like the major label debut in many ways. The pop-rock acts the band's found themselves touring alongside the last few years are quickly becoming their contemporaries–Set Your Goals are just writing better songs, thankfully. One can only hope they find a way to stay that course, since they've seemed to slip off the other one.

Burning at Both Ends