Upset is the brainchild of some serious pop-punk women: Ali Koehler as the lead singer and guitarist, who formerly drummed for Best Coast and Vivian Girls; Jennifer Prince on lead guitar, who also used to play in Vivian Girls and contributes to La Sera; and ex-Hole drummer Patty Schemel, who needs no introduction.
Together they form the carefree, catchy, power-punk trio that just released its debut LP, She’s Gone.
The fact that all of the members have experience playing and writing this genre makes it easier for them to come together and perform as a unit from the get-go, but their disparities give them a little variation in their writing from time to time.
It’s fitting, given the lineup, that Upset went back in time and wrote a classic pop-punk album. Although this route was expected, one cannot help but be disappointed in the unoriginality of the outcome.
The album rarely strays from the stereotypical fast-paced, messy instruments and lyrics about petty problems, like adolescent jealousy toward other girls in “Queen Frosteen.”
Where She’s Gone doesn’t sound like a ripoff of the early 2000s, it sounds immature and lacks any real appeal aside from some catchy, overused chord progressions and melodies.
Upset is good at what it does. However, it has no sense of novelty. Go through any old punk album and you could pick out most—if not all—of the same riffs and drum lines used on She’s Gone. And while simplicity is an aspect of the genre, this album goes beyond that; it just feels mundane.
Most of the songs blend together, with speed as the only distinguishing factor (they’re either fast or very fast). The only exception to this is the beginning to “Tobacco,” which then explodes into the same repetitive setup as the other tracks and ends the same way it started, with Koehler and her guitar.
There are still a few songs worthy of a listen. “Phone Calls,” although it’s lacking in the lyrical department, has some killer guitar work. The use of feedback was absolutely stellar, and the entire song sounded like a solo for Jennifer Prince. She’s Gone would have been substantially improved if she had more room to shine, bringing more of this unique guitar work instead of the tiresome, three-chord songs.
“Oxfords and Wingtips,” the album’s single, was the other standout track. It has the same feel as “Phone Calls” and has much better lyrics, to boot, as well as Prince’s much-needed contribution on the guitar. Schemel also makes one of her most noticeable offerings in this song; she sits in the background on a majority of the album.
Then there are songs like “Don’t Lose Your Dinosaur,” which is a cheesy lament about not giving up what you really love to do. There are good ways to write about this (see: O.A.R.’s version of “Black Rock” on Live at Madison Square Garden) and bad ways. “Don’t Lose Your Dinosaur” is an example of the latter. Enjoyable Step Brothers reference aside, it sounds like it should be featured on a children’s TV show.
There’s so much missing from this release. If She’s Gone were to be described in one word, it would be juvenile.
Most of it sounds as if it were written by a pre-teen in her bedroom at her parent’s house, not by an experienced musician in her mid-twenties. The songs sound bland and hollow, but covered up by peppy singing and catchy, yet uninteresting instrumentals.
At the end of the day, it seems like the members of Upset should have stuck to their original bands, all of which sound more solid than this collaborative effort. Coming from a band with such potential, She’s Gone is simply disappointing.
Upset – She’s Gone tracklist:
- “Back to School”
- “She’s Gone”
- “Oxfords and Wingtips”
- “Queen Frosteen”
- “About Me”
- “Game Over”
- “Don’t Lose Your Dinosaur”
- “Never Wanna”
- “Let It Go”
- “Phone Calls”
- “You and I”