All Systems Go! - All Systems Go! (Cover Artwork)

All Systems Go!

All Systems Go! (1999)

Coldfront Records

The Doughboys were a pop-punk band from Montreal that existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Playing an almost (but not quite) radio-friendly style of punk, it could be argued that they were among the predecessors who set the stage for bands like Blink-182 to ultimately bring modern pop-punk to the masses. They flirted with major label success but never fully attained it and decided to end their run in 1997. However, front man John Kastner felt the need to keep on trucking and teamed up with Mark Arnold and Frank Daly from the recently disbanded Big Drill Car out of Huntington Beach, California, to form a pop-punk super group of sorts called All Systems Go! At the time, I was a little too young to have witnessed the Doughboys golden era, so when I saw this new band drop their self-titled album All Systems Go! I immediately picked up a copy and then stayed out well past my bedtime on a few school nights to catch these songs in person as an underager who was “allowed” to be in the bar for a licensed show.

All Systems Go! begins with a notably strong and well-crafted guitar line that resembles a warning signal or alarm before crashing into the heavy hitting opener “All I Want” which is just about as close to perfection as a heavier, yet still melodic, punk rock song can get. The band takes the technical riffs of Arnold and intertwines them with Kastner’s daydream-style vocal harmonies to produce a unique sound that is crisp and crunchy in the mix but never really gets too mean with your ears. “Vodka Sonic” and “I’ll Be Your Radio” are quick-tempo standouts that again feature veteran guitar licks and melodic, memorable choruses. Produced by Daniel Rey, known for his work with the Ramones, the album includes a cover of Dee Dee Ramone’s “Sub-Zero” which fits in well and shows some range for a band that some might dismiss as just playing fast, sort of poppy punk that was popular at the time. This range is further explored on the closing two tracks “Junk Drawer” and “California Bummer” which unlike the aforementioned “Sub-Zero,” don’t fit in so well and drop the album as a whole down a point or two for me. One or two more quick-tempo numbers are needed here.

Sometimes super groups can create a division among fans who are really only interested in the happenings of one or two members but force themselves to listen along anyway. However, with All Systems Go! I believe both fans of the Doughboys and Big Drill Car would be happy with the release. It incorporated elements of both bands styles, but ultimately was a new sound, an updated sound that I would say worked better for the time. The standout tracks are still relevant and rocking for me 15 years later, but looking back I can say the closing of the record is a little weak. In closing: revisit bands who made you listen to punk rock in the first place. I broke the law to see All Systems Go!