MxPx - MxPx (Cover Artwork)

MxPx

MxPx (2018)

Global Enterprises


Look, I’m as surprised as you are to see me giving four stars to an MxPx album. My most controversial review I ever wrote for this site was the review I did for 90’s week a few years back where I gave MxPx’s Life in General a star and a half and called frontman Mike Herrera “a terrible songwriter” who “comes from what I like to call the Tom DeLonge school of songwriting. That’s where you write the first line, and then twist the next line into some sort of Frankensteinian contortion to make it rhyme with the first line, without ever considering the possibility of changing the first line instead. This results in some tortured lines like trying to pretend that ‘girls’ and ‘flowers’ somehow rhyme.” I even trashed their 2012 album, Plans Within Plans.

Okay, okay, okay, I should stop because I’m not here to trash MxPx, I’m here to eat my own words because MxPx’s new self-titled album is shockingly good. This is a minor point, I realize, but I’ve never been a huge fan of bands making their first album self-titled. It seems lazy to me. But I love it when a band puts out a self-titled album well into their career, several albums and years in. I feel like it signals a reset, a return to form, and MxPx is exactly such a return to form, with greatly improved lyrics. Herrera’s songwriting skills have advanced light years on this album. That’s not to say it’s the best songwriting in punk or pop-punk—it’s not on the level of Against Me! or The Menzingers, for example—but I would describe his songwriting as highly competent with flashes of excellence. The lyrics show a mature side to MxPx that grapple with being older punks, mortality, marriage, and fatherhood, all over a pummeling pop-punk/skate-punk soundtrack.

“Rolling Strong” expresses a renewed commitment to their craft. “All of It” is a smartly crafted love song that talks about long term commitment and building a life together, something you’re less likely to find in lyrics from younger bands. “Friday Tonight” is admittedly kind of nonsensical, but in a joyously fun way. It also contains my favorite lyric on the whole album “How old would you be if you forgot your birthday?” “Let’s Ride” details vividly a romantic journey to the Rocky Mountains. “The Way We Do” details the specifics of life on the road, name dropping several other bands like Face to Face and Simple Plan. But my favorite name drop is when they talk about the time they stole food from Bad Religion’s dressing room, which gives me an amazing image of Greg Graffin raging out after realizing the (once) Christian band stole his food in an ironically reversed Dennis the Menace/Mr. Wilson scenario. “Moments Like This” deals with mortality from the perspective of a loving father, something you never hear in skate punk.

I’m about to admit something on here I never admit, and that’s that I may have been wrong about MxPx’s previous album, Plans Within Plans, or that I may have at least gone into it with too much bias and owe it another listen, because judging by MxPx, a mature MxPx actually knows how to write a song in a way that young MxPx never even came close to. MxPx is the work of a seasoned artist who is finally sure of their footing and with a fantastically renewed sense of purpose.