The Class of 98 - Touch This and Die! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Class of 98

Touch This and Die! (2006)

The Militia Group

I can't fault them for doing it well. The Class of 98 fit in perfectly on a Militia Group roster chock full of bands with catchy hooks, harmonies, and fangless guitar work. It's not that the band doesn't have any sort of power at all, it's that where they do show it, it's so harmless and reserved that you'd never even think twice. It fits in well with their style I suppose, but a few notches in the distortion tuning couldn't have hurt things.

People will have to accept Touch This and Die! just how it comes, however, and for many, that'll be more than enough. The band has a real solid songwriting sense, and their mid-tempo pop-rock tunes are as infectious as they come. They might have chosen style over substance, but it doesn't appear to be too bad of a choice for them right now.

In fact, I'm actually quite surprised that this band isn't bigger than they are right now. Being on The Militia Group, I doubt it will stay that way, but fans of Cartel and Acceptance are going to absolutely love these tightly wound melodies and well-crafted choruses. And, the start-and-stop vocals in the chorus of the album opener, "Everywhere You Go," is indicative of just what's left to be found elsewhere on the record. Singer Steve Wilson has a voice of gold, smooth and delicate, but able to pack a formidable punch when he's really stretching for those high notes and drawn out syllables; he's easily the band's most impressive weapon. Engaging without being whiny or nasally in the slightest, each song already has something going for it simply because he's singing.

What does somewhat lack is the instrumentation. I don't expect to see raging guitars or crazy time signatures, but the fact is a lot of the guitar playing, and drumming especially, seems rather lazy and uninspired. There's plenty of ways to put passion into your playing without it being loud or heavy, and none of the possibilities are truly explored on the record. It's only on "Hundreds and Thousands of Stars" that the instrumentation is kicked up a little bit, but that track exposes another problem: lyrics. The lyrics on this output are trite and rehashed from every other pop-rock band around right now. Once again, I'm not looking for a beacon of creativity or originality, but they need to go that extra mile to separate themselves from the crowded pack.

The album has some really great tunes, but most of the better moments can be contributed to Steve Wilson's vocals, not his guitar playing, and not the guitar, bass, or drum work of everyone else. It's all standard fare when the vocals are far past that. Regardless, there's some fun to be had here, providing you're willing to wade through the swirls of mediocrity.