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Summerlin ‘You Can’t Burn Out If You’re Not On Fire’

Pop-punk is a tricky genre. It’s always (and wrongly) overlooked as the chidren’s punk-pool where everyone sounds the same, yet seems to be constraining in terms of boundary pushing. It’s a place where fans of hardcore punk genres refuse to lend their ears, but rarely has enough sheen to be suitably amiable for pop and pop-rock fans. Summerlin, a four-piece from Leeds, have done a pretty damn good job of accounting for these genre downfalls with their debut ‘You Can’t Burn Out If You’re Not On Fire’ (out now).

Whether intentional or not, Summerlin’s fusion of American-style pop-punk and heavier, melodic hardcore will appeal to a broad spectrum of punk fans. Catchy opener ‘Let It Go’ is upbeat, straightforward pop-punk, but it’s the second track ‘Sink Or Swim’ that is the better introduction to Summerlin. The pop vocal harmonies and bouncy rhythms are beefed up with unusually intricate guitar work for a band of this sort, and has an underlying hardcore-lite vibe with head-nodding, mini breakdowns in the vein of the early ‘emo-core’ of Fall Out Boy. Note how I said head-nodding as opposed to head-banging: ‘You Can’t Burn Out If You’re Not On Fire’ contains plenty of catchy but diluted hardcore breakdowns, not heavy enough to be hostile, but certainly more gutsy than regular pop-punk.

In terms of their influences, Summerlin are clearly fans of the American pop-punk heavyweights like Blink 182 and, especially, New Found Glory (who have also experimented with subtle hardcore moments). To be honest, it does sound like they are trying a little too hard to sound American – ‘My Old Life Isn’t A Complicate As My Webpage Made’ features vocals that sound just like The Starting Line, and even the title of ‘Growing Up Sucks’ sounds like an American pop-punk song title. There really is very little about this band that sounds British.

Singer Drew Lawson apparently handled much of the early production, but it was finished in Sweden by the f**king punk-producer don himself – Pelle Henricsson, one of the two guys who brought us Refused’s ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’ – and so the overall sound is predictably powerful. Lawson has a wholly appropriate whine for a pop-punk band (think Simple Plan), and the harmonies and chorus are as fine as any other band of this genre out their at the moment. The only place on the album where the vocals don’t quite work are on the slightly sickening ballad ‘Easy On The Eyes’ (pop-punk, whining vocals always end up sounding pathetic and grating on ballads).

The main problem with Summerlin is that there isn’t quite enough diversity on this album to make it truly stand out head and shoulders above the other pop-punkers, despite their attempts to incorporate heavier influences. The moments of hardcore-influenced instrumentation really are the best thing about this album, with the melodic hardcore punk of ‘United Divided’ (sounding like Rise Against at their most accessible) and the post-hardcore of the closing title-track (sounding like Funeral For A Friend circa 2011) being the highlights. The occasional gang vocals are as close to screaming as possible without sounding overtly aggressive, and the intelligent guitar lines and chugging breakdowns are exceptionally rousing.

Of course, Summerlin are far from the first band to incorporate heavier, hardcore influences into pop-punk – with Four Year Strong doing it better than anyone at the moment – but they really do make this kind of music very well, especially for a band who only formed in 2008. Pop-punk is not child’s play, and pop-punk is certainly not dead.

Originally published by AAA Music here

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~ by cliveparisrozario on May 15, 2012.

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