Remember Drive Thru Records? Label of amazing comps and the cool roster in the early 00s. Something Corporate, Allister, The Early November, Fenix, TX, New Found Glory, The Starting Line – hundreds of high school band’s hopes and dreams hinged on getting that golden arrow slapped on the back of their CD. Unfortunately, they took a nosedive in recent years, and dragged a lot of good bands down in the wreckage of tangled contracts, unfulfilled expectations, and generally miserable business practices.
The last group they had a significant hand in launching was HelloGoodbye, an emo/pop hybrid that served as the hyperkinetic protozoa Owl City would eventually grow from. They had a hit a few years ago – “Here In Your Arms” – that was almost tolerable, but Forest Kline’s unbearably nasally vocals and cheeseball lyrics put a kibosh to that.
After they moved God knows how many units for Drive Thru on the back of that single, the band pretty much vanished. Every once in a while, there’d be talk of a follow up, a b-side would leak, or an interview would be posted, but otherwise, the group seemed pretty much done. The attention I paid to all this was somewhere between “Oh look, it’s raining out,” and “Hey, a bird.”
This is where we’ll stop and take stock of my bad assumptions for a second: HelloGoodbye is a bad band, a dead band, a one-trick pony on a busted carousel. All wrong. So, so wrong.
Would It Kill You, their first release in four years – and on their own label, Wasted Summer – is an illustration of a band in the middle of creating something new. By shedding the (literal) bells, whistles and AIM alert noises from their sound, the group has placed a spotlight on their songwriting chops and come out looking sharp. Tracks like “You Sleep Alone,” come closest to falling backwards, but the dedication to trying clever new acoustic instrumentation elevates what could otherwise be a bleating electronic mess into a legitimately interesting pop song.
“You Sleep Alone”
In general, the production and arrangements on the album seem to take cues from Motown and 50s rock records with washy cymbals and reverb-laced geetars. Kline’s voice is still not launching any ships, but someone’s been practicing and it pays off.
I think it all comes together best on the last track “Something You Misplaced,” where the band takes a second to slow it down and really play with a unique melody. The drums are still spastic, but the quiet, languid performance on top of them suggests an interesting new direction.
“Something You Misplaced”
As for Drive Thru Records? Ugh.
By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC