There’s something bittersweet about the volatility of punk rock.
All too often, bands break up well before their time and leave a noticeable absence in their sub-genre. Listeners wait eagerly for the next act that may possibly pick up where predecessors left off. With the release of the appropriately titled More Songs, Michigan City, Ind./Chicago act Grown Ups has become the replacement for the mourned bands Braid and Latterman.
Grown Ups somehow finds a middle ground between uplifting pop-punk and technical post-hardcore and emo. Guitarist Adam Sheets produces some of the most intricate guitar lines to have ever been utilized on pop-punk songs, and it mixes perfectly with vocalist and guitarist Doyle Martin’s rhythm guitar work. Drummer Jacob Bonham and bassist Andy Tokarski provide a solid backbone for Grown Ups.
It is the subtle additions that make each song vibrant and lively.
More Songs is an impressive debut, but culls half of its tracks from previous releases. Someone who has followed the band from the get-go may be let down by this, but the improved production (courtesy of Matt Allison) gives the band a huge forward push sonically. The four songs from the debut EP Songs sound huge and fully realized. Closing track “Are You Shitten Me?” which originally saw the light of day under the title “Are You Kitten Me?” displays a much stronger structure than it had prior. The reworked version shakes off overt pop and hits harder than any other Grown Ups song to date.
Lyrically, Martin doesn’t break any new ground, but his unique balance of self-analysis and optimism keeps More Songs from becoming stale.
“I’m just trying to use the time I’m given” from energetic opener “Weed Science” shows the positivity the band is capable of exuding. This and lines such as “I woke up to get knocked down/But I still strained to hear that sound of wind against my house/This tired game of cat and mouse” from “Open Sesame” demonstrate the range of content Martin can cover with ease.
More Songs offers up huge sing-along choruses and many tracks give way to irresistibly huge ‘whoas.’ These moments are balanced equally with intricate noodling that would have fit perfectly on an American Football release. The band sends somewhat of a nod to its hardcore influence in “Johnny Edwards.”
Grown Ups borrows a technique from Kid Dynamite at the end of the track when they seem to finish the song only to bust back in with a completely new direction in its closing seconds. The only track that really misses the mark is “Six More Weeks of Winter,” which still features an uproariously fun climax. However, these last 20 seconds aren’t enough to keep a listener invested throughout the rest of the track.
While Grown Ups is relatively young, it’s made up of immensely talented musicians and songwriters. More Songs has all the trappings of a ’90’s emo record but with potential for a mainstream crossover due to their pop-punk sensibilities. While it comes over a decade after the sub-genre’s pioneers flourished, Grown Ups claims its spot alongside them.
It may not be as perfect as Braid’s Frame and Canvas, but it is as close as one may come to continuing that legacy.