The Ataris - Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

The Ataris

Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits (retro review) (1999)

kung fu records

1999 provided punk fans with the absolute best version of Indiana's melodic pop punk band the Ataris with Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits.

The fourteen track home run, released shortly after the Fat Wreck EP Look Forward to Failure, featured a methodical four-piece at the top of their game. The band was able to effortlessly connect the dots between heart-stringed emo and No Use For A Name level punk rock, peppered throughout with Kris Roe's quirky certainty. In '99 Roe was able to translate a level of angst and self-reflecting that any human being could identify with, and the fans often out-sang the artist at their live shows.

Blue Skies dropped with energy in "Losing Streak," a two minute pop punk blueprint of the the album, and connected with the dissonant "1*15*96." Roe's storytelling would open up a massive and unforgettable bridge that changed the genre. The adored "San Dimas High School Football Rules" followed, but would cut the sappiness quickly with the total bummer "Your Boyfriend Sucks," a membership club anthem for all geeks in the friend-zone.

The six-eight drive of "I Won't Spend Another Night Alone" riffs off of Weezer inspiration, with more geek-heartthrob vocal hooks before firing open with the double-time standard of "Broken Promise Ring." Drummer Chris Knapp truly navigates the entire record, showcasing solid tempos, unique single-kick triplets, and an unconventional but charming take on the punk drumming of the Punk-O-Rama hayday. "Angry Nerd Rock" invited back an oldie from 1997's Anywhere but Here, also released on Kung Fu Records, but the punk standard was completely restructured to fit cohesively into the collective. The obvious themes of "The Last Song I Will Ever Write About A Girl" would come a bit trite, but strong vocal hooks, clever instrumental decisions, and a train wreck ending would make up for it.

"Choices" locks in at 90 seconds and would have fit perfectly on Anywhere, but offers a needed optimism and palate cleansing after the hopelessness that preceded. The change in moods followed with the uplifting "Better Way" before reaching the acoustic/strings number "My Hotel Year," which would skillfully sum up the tribulations of the band's constant touring. "Life Makes No Sense" opened with some neat bass-work, and a general simplicity that carried the album past another (less than) two minute song without any issue. "Answers" and "In Spite Of The World" jointly rocked the album closed with a sharper edge, flooding negative guitar progressions and aggressive vocals from Roe. Saving room for many more great drum moments from Chris Knapp.

In just 36 minutes of session, the Ataris' lives collectively changed, as did the genre. The band ingeniously bridged the gap between wuss-rock emo and Fat Wreck punk rock, and in a way that welcomed every listener with open arms. Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits is a generous masterpiece from a band that served it's time and paid it's dues.