Hey Mike! - Hey Mike! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Hey Mike!

Hey Mike! (2006)


With independent record labels in a panic over declining sales in the past months, many are taking certain measures to cut costs. One of the cost-cutting strategies has been to scale back on promoting via independent and college radio stations. Having worked with college radio for a number of years now, I have been saddened to see the tradition of independent record companies working hand in hand with independent, non-commercial radio stations diminish in such a short amount of time. That's why I couldn't have been happier with opening a package from Takeover Records addressed to the radio station, sliding Hey Mike!'s self-titled into the CD player, and receiving the best surprise I'd had in a long time.

Right off the bat I knew I was hearing something great. "This Bag Is Not a Toy" -- a witty wordplay on the serious issue of soldiers returning to the States in bodybags -- launches the record with the blistering skatepunk rhythms and infectious melodies that dominate the 50 minutes of music on the record. Hey Mike! puts the POP in pop-punk, but that only goes so far as the catchy leads and choruses. Outside of say, Green Day, you would be hard-pressed to hear material on a pop radio station as overtly political and with as much conviction as Hey Mike! delivers. Sings lead vocalist Steven Neufeld on "This Bag Is Not a Toy," "'Farewell to you, loved ones,' said the parents who gave their sons / They needed a leader, yet got a deceiver who preys on the believers / […] / Drafting the poor unsung heroes and hired guns / Update of the morning is that the enemy's storming with illegitimate warning of gunfire / We gotta bury the past / For all the innocent people who lost their lives, light a match."

The next song, "Carry Love" continues the societal inquiries that blends seamlessly with Neufeld's articulated personal introspection. At this point in the record, it's blatantly obvious that somehow or another, Hey Mike! sounds a lot like veteran labelmates Inspection 12, with many of the same lyrical themes, catchy yet bordering on off-key melodies, and even the so-awkward-they're-fun lyrics. There's really nothing wrong with this, as Inspection 12 is a unique and I believe underappreciated band; it simply helps to serve as a reference point. "Textbook Affair" shows the I12 comparisons perfectly with its slightly immature lyrics, killer harmonies, and unique structuring. "I Guarantee" is another of the album's highlights, which would best be described as acoustic skatepunk, an interesting idea that works out great.

It may have been that I went into this album with modest expectations, but I was quite impressed with everything Hey Mike! puts forth. Their throwback-to-the-`90s sound of positive skatepunk is an unexpected yet fresh delivery that is sorely lacking in the scene today. Takeover has certainly taken a risk in signing a band that so clearly does not fit with the gloomy, self-interested muck that other labels are lowering themselves to, but in doing so they've made a fan out of me.