Ex Friends - Rules For Making Up Words (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Ex Friends

Rules For Making Up Words (2013)

Paper + Plastick

Let's talk some jive. Paper + Plastick gets props for helping introduce Plow United to a new generation of "the punks" with Sleepwalk: A Retrospective, but when it comes to supporting the members' current endeavors, they've stumbled. Plow's Joel Tannenbaum's other band, Ex Friends, have been steadily cranking out new tunes over the last year. This fall should have seen the triumphant debut of their first full-length. Instead, we get a bungled online release with vague promises of physical copies in 2014. Boo-urns.

Here's the thing: Rules For Making Up Words is the jam. Running through 14 songs in 27 minutes, it delivers rapid fire pop-punk anthems rife with dichotomy. There's humor and sociopolitical analysis in equal measure. Gruff vox segue into interwoven harmonies. Super catchy songs about super bummer topics. This album should have been at the top of P+P's "to do" list.

While Tannenbaum is the frontman, each member gets their own bit o' spotlight. Bassist/vocalist Audrey Crash takes lead mic on tracks like "Fight Like a Girl" and "Archaeologists of the Future," and her playing on songs like "Bad Bourgeoisie" and "Dirty Ben Franklin" lend plenty of bounce. Guitarist Jayme Guokas adds textures here and there, proving that Ex Friends' songs are deceptively simple. Check out the layers of noise he brings to "Western Civilization;" it's still pop-punk, but there's some extra stuff thrown in. As for drummer JP Flexner, he bashes and crashes and thrashes.

Admittedly, the record's production comes off a little too polished in spots. But it's never so distracting as to ruin the songs. If anything, it just helps the words come out. Rules For Making Up Words starts off as a collection of tongue-in-cheek punk songs, but gradually this theme of growing up appears. It culminates with the closing tracks "Rainy Season" (originally heard on the Twisted Around 7-inch) and "Let's Get Old." Revisiting the record reveals that even the joke songs ("Rich Kid School," "Sympathy for the Sociopath") are steeped in personal history.

All of this is to say that Rules should have been given a lot more love and attention. It's rife with catchy tunes, right from the get-go with "Dirty Ben Franklin," and for it to get halfheartedly digitally dumped out this late in the year is malarkey. That said, at least it's available through iTunes and Spotify. Look for vinyl and CD...eventually?