The Manix - Van Activities [7 inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Manix

Van Activities [7 inch] (2010)

Whoa Oh

Pop-punk should not be this fun! Wait a minute, yes it should. It's just that since melodic masochists like Alkaline Trio and all their equally distraught copycats exploded a few years back, it seems like everyone outside of the Ramones-core crowd has been singing about heartbreak and empty bottles. Not so, with the Manix.

Like the rusted rickshaw of its namesake, Van Activities burns rubber on a solid foundation of four on the floor. From ribbing Val Kilmer on the spry sing-along "Madmartigan" to shoulder-shrugging agnostics on "Metal Endings," the quartet carves out a niche that's increasingly their own despite well-deserved comparisons to Dillinger Four and Toys That Kill.

Intro paragraph notwithstanding, Van Activities isn't all smiles and chuckles, as the EP's sole comedown "Reach for the Sky" asserts, "Thanks again, this is goodbye / You should hear yourself sometimes / You're nothing more that I'd pursue / 'Cause you're not pulling through this fine." The blistering insomniac anthem "Awake and Up" demonstrates the Manix's ability to use simplicity to their advantage, crafting a ripe minute-o-eight of pop-punk as Corey Ayd shouts, "I'll sleep when I can breathe / Know there's nothing underneath / I'll sleep when I can breathe / No, there's nothing underneath."

Both Willow references and timely rhythm changes courtesy of drummer Mike DeGree abound on the jovial "Madmartigan," while "Metal Endings" rounds out the record as arguably the finest track of the bunch. In it, the quartet makes the most of their multi-vocal approach and layers of guitar varnishing the EP's final lines, "Spent years talkin' bout leaving / Don't know what to believe in."

Progressing from their 2009 debut Stay Low and Go, the only real downside the Manix present here is that like its predecessor, the customary brevity of the 7-inch format is unfortunate. But it also makes the math easier, with a gold star of excellence for each pop-punk gem on Van Activities.