Various - Warped Tour 2003 Compilation (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Warped Tour 2003 Compilation (2003)


I usually give these things a good score because, hey, it's 50 songs for the price of a quality sandwich. If you're at least slightly interested in hearing the unreleased tracks on this sucker than that should be reason enough to pick it up. However this suffers from the same flaws as other massive punk compilations.

I'd love to have the tracklisting reflect the lineup of this year's festival. I understand that the scheduled release of the CD probably conflicts with the confirmation of all the acts, but whatever the circumstances headlining bands like Rancid, The Ataris and AFI are noticeably absent. However to SideOne's credit there are new tracks from the majority of the other headliners on here. New tunes from The Suicide Machines, Less Than Jake, Thrice, the Dropkick Murphys, Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies and others make this worth checking out.

As always with these massive compilations, we have the doldrums. Maybe its just a the result of trying to sit through both CDs back to back, but there are (seemingly) long stretches of too-similar music that kill the momentum. On this year's comp that quagmire is located around tracks 16 to 21 of the first disc: a string of mostly radio-emo that goes Senses Fail -> Stairwell -> Story Of The Year -> Useless ID -> Matchbook Romance -> Early November. Not to knock those bands per-se, but the momentum simply lags here. Call it the curse of packing so much music into one release: arrangement is a bitch.

With that off my chest, there's a lot of great stuff here. Most prominent is the new Suicide Machines song "Your Silence." The track has everything you can ask for, raging punk/hardcore that eclipses their "Battle Hymns" material and a tantalizing upstroke bridge to build anticipation for their full length. NOFX contribute a great politically charged track from their "13 Stitches" 7" while Less Than Jake throw in the fun "Anthem" b-side "ASAOK." The new Dropkick Murphys and Thrice full lengths are previewed with a duo of strong tracks. The Bouncing Souls kick off the second disc with the speedy "Born Free" from their new record.

Two bands that surprised me were Letter Kills and S.T.U.N.. With "Don't Believe" Letter Kills prove how good screamy post-punk can actually sound if the band remembers that rock & roll can be loud, fast and fun. Meanwhile S.T.U.N inject a Beastie Boys / Janes Addiction vibe into the metallic-punk of "The Movement." Strong album cuts from a ton of bands fill in the gaps, including music from Tsunami Bomb, Jackson, Rise Against and others.

My favorite moment comes from Boston's Avoid One Thing. In a track co-written by the Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba and H2O's Toby Morse, they rip into mall punk culture with "Pop Punk Band." The key moment being Joe Gittleman's lament "Our love it can't be wrong... I wanna sing like Tom Delonge!." Another high point is when Me First & The Gimmie Gimmie's respectfully cover Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come." As the original is one of the greatest songs of all time (disagree and we'll fight), the fact that Me First's version never once loses its seriousness is credit enough.

Of course there's stuff I didn't appreciate. Taking Back Sunday have the "sneak peek version" (whatever that means) of a song called "Your Own Disaster." It's one of the finest examples of quasi-acoustic, vocally off-tune sap-emo I've ever come across. I could do without Coheed and Cambria's Geddy Lee impression as well, Rush bothers me enough on their own. Yellowcard, Simple Plan and Mest stick out as far too sugary and in comparison to the other bands here.

As always, personal preference more than anything is controlling what bands I'm focusing on in this review. You'll get the most enjoyment out of the new Warped Tour comp by listening to it as individual blocks of 2-3 tracks at a time that. It works far better as a sampler than as an album, so taken that way it's quite effective.