First to Leave - Forging a Future (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

First to Leave

Forging a Future (2007)


First to Leave produced one of the best totally derivative pop-punk albums of 2006, Change Never Lasts, a promising, spunky debut full of cheeky handjobs to their heroes in Fairweather and Saves the Day (even the acoustic "Amber Sunlight" was a blatant play on STD's "Three Miles Down"). It was certainly enjoyable, but frontman Matt Foster's voice tended to border on annoying and the occasional sugar rush of early New Found Glory felt like a stomachache at the hands of a six-pack of Red Bull. On Forging a Future, which is finally finding a release on physical compact disc via tiny indie Wednesday Records after those plans apparently fell through with their former label, we find a unit tinkering with and improving their sound.

For starters, Foster's voice is much stronger and a little more aggressive. This might be chalked up to the work of producer J. Robbins, who, despite some experience with pleasant pop bands of this variety (the Promise Ring, the Stereo), usually works with a rougher sect. Luckily, Foster's still as endearing, and in slightly less cheesy mannerisms than Change Never Lasts sometimes embarrassingly let lyrically spill...granted, he often seems to stick to Conley-esque territory ("I'll get my hands out of my pockets, tear the curtains from my eyes, then I'll empty out the sockets and I'll bury you inside"), but it's an overall improvement.

Additionally, there's a greater variety of tempos. The band still love double-time, as evidenced in tracks like opener "The Saving Cycle," "The Blind Man!" and the angry "13 Frames," all while retaining their signature, upbeat melodic edge, but they come off more like refreshing slabs of melodicore sandwiched between more restrained numbers like "My Aim Is True" and "Revival (Starts and Ends)."

Musically, comparisons will probably be still made to If They Move-era Fairweather, Lifetime and bands of that sort, but it's clear the band is starting to move beyond the obviousness of it and into their own, comfortable niche. They don't quite match up to the quality of those influences, but they're getting there.

Forging a Future may not feature a mind-blowing progression from First to Leave, but its title certainly acts without hesitance.

My Aim Is True
Two Guns One Mile
The Blind Man!
Drag the Lake