PEARS - Green Star (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

PEARS

Green Star (2016)

Fat Wreck Chords


No, your eyes are not deceiving you, nor is this an April Fool’s Day prank. PEARS’ second album Green Star more than deserves each of those five stars. If you thought that PEARS’ sound on Go To Prison was as revolutionary as many have hailed it to be, know that Green Star is PEARS’ sound on steroids and nitrous oxide mixed together (and maybe tripping on acid at times). They clearly mastered the art of combining hardcore and anthemic melody with their first record, but this time they have pushed themselves to expand that sound to a new frontier, while creating a stark difference between the two albums. And the product of all that is one hell of a record -- so there should not be any concern of a “sophomore slump” here.

When Green Star was announced, the first thought that came to mind was, “Where the hell can this band go after Go To Prison and the Letter To Memaw EP?” I have a feeling many other PEARS fans were thinking the same. Some how they are faster, meaner, darker, rawer, more aggressive and yet softer, lighter, and willing to go far outside of their comfort zone all at the same time. Even though there is a total of sixteen tracks on this album, which may seem like a lot of time to fill, there is an unbelievable amount of accomplishments packed into it. Much like Go To Prison, you find something completely new with every listen.

The album starts out on a sentimental note with a clip of a very young Zach Quinn and his mother playing with a talking toy that actually says “Green Star,” portraying that the band is coming from a different and more personal and vulnerable place with this record. Once that ends, the band spares no time into jumping right into “Hinged By Spine,” where you realize that PEARS is definitely not fooling around here and this is not “Go To Prison Part 2.” It’s radically different. From start to finish Zach busts out huge anthemic vocals that are accompanied by even bigger backing parts. At the same time this is still very much the same PEARS – typically no song of theirs stays consistently the same. “Hinged By Spine” swiftly breaks down into a very short hardcore part and then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere comes a brief acoustic guitar (something we have not heard yet from the band). It may sound like it could be disjointed and weird when you read about it, but as usual with PEARS, its not when you actually hear it. Once again PEARS pulls off this “anthemic-to-hardcore” style of theirs without any issue through out this album and they do it especially well in the title track and “Cumshots.”

Another prime example of how they have successfully expanded on their sound is on the rollercoaster of a track “Cloverleaf.” For literally the first eight seconds of the song you would think that it was going into this high-energy direction with soaring vocals – but it goes nowhere near that. Instead it immediately “degrades” into this sludgy breakdown where Zach throatily screams and then it switches back to the lighter melodic part. They make this gigantic jump not once, but twice until this really intense and ominous build up leads the band into the thrashy-er, circle pit-inducing verses, which probably hit supersonic speeds at some points. This song is complicated and exhausting in the best possible ways.

One aspect that was missing from Go To Prison was guitar solos. That’s not a criticism, as it really wasn’t necessary for those songs to have them. This time around though, we not only hear just how masterful Brian Pretus is as playing the insanely complex chord progressions that make up a PEARS tune, but we finally get to hear his soloing skills. Unsurprisingly, he does not disappoint. The short and repetitive riffs in the solo of “I Love My Kennel” blends the extremely dark bridge and the more up beat and brighter outro together seamlessly. He even decided to experiment a with some guitar effects to make the hypnotic riffs in the guitar solo in “The Flu” (a track originally written by one of Zach’s former bands F.O.I.) extremely screechy.

Another new aspect Green Star brings is PEARS’ use of purely instrumental piano interludes that make up the tracks “Dizzy Is Drunk” and “Jump The Fuckin’ Ship.” These two songs calm things down just enough so that you are prepared for the impending ruthlessness of the following tunes. Taking this route was a very interesting, yet unexpected way for the band to break up the album.

If there was just one track that sums up just how much of an accomplishment on Green Star is it would have to be the final one, which is called “Great Mt. Ida.” Not only is it a phenomenal closer that leaves you wanting more, but it also encapsulates just how each band member has grown as an artist in the relatively short time they have been a band compared to when they had just began to gain notoriety. On this track you can hear how incredibly wide and dynamic Zach’s vocal range is. In the span of about two and a half minutes his vocals shift from melodic and heavily anthemic, to near growling and screaming, to gentle falsettos. Even for a PEARS song, the constant changes in this song must be grueling to play and Brian nails every guitar note – and that absolutely goes for the Alex Talbot’s (who has since left the band) bass playing as well. “Great Mt. Ida” also is a showcase of new(ish) drummer, Jarret Nathan’s incredible abilities – specifically his mastery of keeping track of PEARS’ signature sudden “stop-and-go” changes all while cramming in lighting fast fills.

On a more personal note, after listening to Green Star from beginning to end for the first time I can honestly say that I was moved after “Great Mt. Ida” was over. It is that intense on the emotions.

Obviously there is a ton of new stuff to take in on this album, however two of the sixteen songs on Green Star we have indeed heard before because they constituted PEARS’ second release Letters to Memaw. On it were “Snowflake” and “Anhedonia.” PEARS played it pretty smart when addressing these two songs for the full-length. Only a subtle amount of tweaks “here and there” were made to them. Anything more would have been overkill. The production on both is noticeably higher quality compared to the earlier versions. In “Snowflake” Zach changed out the last line of lyrics and they let the guitar ring out a little bit more. There were some more noticeable, but minor changes made to “Anhedonia.” The rhythm is a bit slower during the break down, there are children’s voices that sing the “give me death” lines and there are high-pitched, echo-y guitar notes that ring out at the very end. Again, not a lot needed to be done to these songs. It was a good thing PEARS didn’t change them too much because they were already great when the pair (pun intended) were released as an EP.

Of course what would a PEARS record be without hidden “Easter Eggs” (or little nods to other bands) planted in their songs? On Go To Prison there was a Decendents reference made in “Grimespree” and a Suicidal Tendencies reference was made in “Forever Sad.” This time instead of just vocal “Easter Eggs” made by Zach, the band actually managed to incorporate recognizable riffs into their songs. In the haunting break down of “I Love My Kennel” you can hear Brian briefly play the main riff to Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” and he even manages to sneak in the riff from The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” in “Partridge.” There are others (lyrical and instrumental), but I don’t want to spoil all of them for you. So happy hunting!

Green Star was a test for PEARS. Was the incredibly innovative Go To Prison just a DIY anomaly? No. Could they really best that record and Letters To Memaw? Absolutely. Did Fat Wreck Chords make the right decision in investing in this band? Hell yes. Green Star is the proof that PEARS is here to stay as long as they have it in them keep going and that they are definitely a force to be reckoned with. Green Star is truly extraordinary. There is no doubt that Fat Wreck Chords has added yet another classic punk record to its roster.