The elementary school talent show. While it may have been an excuse to get out of doing long division or studying state capitals for a few hours, it was always essentially just as boring as the work you were doing anyhow. But did you care? Hell no, you were out of class! Of course, none of these acts would be any good; you'd have some juggling, maybe a song or two, or the same kid every year who tried to ride a unicycle but fell down anyhow. Nothing to remember ever comes out of these things, but wait, there are the Van Ermans. This band comprised of 3 kids who can't even legally buy a 12-pack yet actually got their start, you guessed it, at an elementary school talent show.
Seven years, two albums, and an EP later, by way of Broken Spoke Records the band is releasing Under The Gun. This leaves a band in an interesting situation, as 7 years into most band's careers playing this style they're inching ever closer to being 30. Nonetheless, and despite their pop-punk approach, the band displays a maturity not seen in a lot of 19-year-old musicians. If anything, the three youngsters play well off each other, and sure as hell know how to write a catchy tune. Infectious hooks and three-part harmonies dominate the bulk of these songs, and they really endear you to the album.
Things kick off right with "I Live My Life Like A French Movie" (hello Fall Out Boy), which combines a bouncy chord progression with Ian Graham and Ben Keeler's terrific harmonizing. The verses carry well into the choruses, which are among the catchiest on the entire album. The song also slightly reminds me of AFI's "Girl's Not Grey" as far as inflection in the chorus, but the overall mood of the record is far less dark than anything Davey Havok has ever had a hand in. There are bits and pieces of brilliance that fade in and out of the record like a radio signal. Sometimes the magic is there, and other times the song structures just make things fall flat. This could also be due to the fact that the band just outstays their welcome for this type of music, as 46 minutes just stretches the attention span a tad too far. All things considered, chalk it up to their maturity that they were able to write something that long, but next time, shaving off 10 minutes or so wouldn't hurt things.
The band's maturity is missing one facet, however: lyrics;
Sometimes I feel restless, I feel overdone / I'm so sick, so tired of my everyday time complications / Hard to be -- just to breathe, you're a habit I don't need / All this seemed, repetition to me/ So much time, so little of it set aside for me to live my life.Ouch guys, that's going to dock you some points.
Youthful exuberance will only take a band so far, and the Van Ermans have found the end of that road on this album. Admittedly, they're far past the majority of bands their age in maturity and songwriting, but a few more years and a better understanding of how important flow to an album is will do great things for this trio. A commendable effort from a young band with all the potential pop-punk could possibly offer.