Narrative: Backyard wrestler The Lone Wolf must defeat the The Evil Kraag to get his title and his girl back.
Performance: The band plays in the ring. Singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell performs from the audience and in closeup.
Song: Top shelf pop-punk from one of the best bands in the scene. If you haven’t heard The Upsides, buy it here immediately. No one’s more relatable, honest or hardworking and the songs are instant classics.
Why You Should Watch It: The band is amazing and the effort is noteworthy – it’s a great example of applying a record’s themes (never giving up, victory through persistence) to a video concept and having some fun with it. The video’s just a little too scattered to be a classic.
“Melrose Diner” seems to want to make up for its lack of flash by overloading it with content. The video starts as a wrestling promo, then briefly takes on the feel of a movie trailer before going into the song and Lone Wolf’s battles. The action is frantic, but moves so fast it’s hard to follow until the final fight. The video’s flat, unlit look is spiced up with filters throughout, and it works with the back to basics energy of the song but isn’t a highlight. So why the recommendation? It’s a perfect example of what friends can do with some perseverance and camaraderie – just like the album itself. Everyone involved is clearly having the time of their lives, and that goes a long way.
Also, you’ll want to know these guys before they blow up. They’re readying a new release, “Suburbia, I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing,” that’s shaping to be as much or more of a touchstone than “The Upsides.” Check out one of the new tracks below:
“Local Man Ruins Everything”
Honest, hooky punk, an album named after a Ginsburg poem, and a Simpson’s reference as a track name? Sold.
Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |
Oh, pop punk. Dearest friend, cruelest enemy, my poison, my mainstay, my first love and my mistress still. I’ve been writing almost a month and still have yet to disclose the nature of our relationship to the people.
The first time I heard “What’s My Age Again?” I was slain. It was hands down the catchiest song I’d ever heard. I probably should’ve been put off by how much of my mom’s old “Boston” records I heard in it, but, alas, I was too young to recognize cheese. Doesn’t matter. Even if I had I don’t know if it would’ve made a damn bit of difference. Anthony Bourdain craves his street food, I crave those double time drums, shouted vocals and pogo pits (also, Troma movies and gummi bears – but that’s a blog for another time).
This craving lead me to NOFX, Green Day, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, New Found Glory, Jawbreaker, upward and onward into the early ‘aughts, emo, and acne. Now I’m twenty-four and my horizons are broad, but I’m always looking for my new fix.
Enter Half Hearted Hero. Right off the bat: minor quibble, but they’re losing points for the name. I know, picky, picky, but c’mon- it kinda sounds like they’re playing a high school talent show, and nothing could be further from the truth.
How this band is not buzzed into space by now is one of the great mysteries of our time. Did aliens crash at Roswell? Where’s Jimmy Hoffa? Who cares. The real question is why haven’t we given these dudes the pop-punk crown and a nice big steak.
I know, I know, we’re in the midst of a pop-punk renaissance, what with The Wonder Years, Yellowcard, Man Overboard, Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong, and maybe even Blink (!) releasing albums at some point this year, there’s a lot of strong competition. Many of these artists bring a fresh musical perspective to a tired genre, infusing it with elements from hardcore or indie (similar to what’s happening in rap, though there’s a good argument that rap itself never really got tired – just its hitmakers), but for my money, no one’s doing it as well as Half Hearted Hero.
Their new EP, Running Water, blasts through six tracks on the back of necksnapping drums and splintery, complex guitar leads, all held to earth by bass playing cast in concrete. It’s a cocktail of Rufio’s intricate catchiness cut with Moneen’s passion and earthy emotion. The back-to-back bullets of tracks four and five – “The Wheels” and “Mirrors” – capture the best of what HHH brings to the table.
“The Wheels” opens with one of the most angular, pleasurably syncopated riffs I’ve heard all year and never lets up – though I don’t know which guitarist Clinton Lisboa or AJ Mills to thank. Vocalist Anthony Savino belts intelligent lyrics with passion (“Another empty page and I wonder what to lay upon it/Maybe an apology/A declaration of remorse”) and the acoustic outro lets the listener gulp some air before the band drops the mammoth jam that is “Mirrors.”
If Blink 182 are the big, shiny, mindless Michael Bay of pop-punk, Half Hearted Hero are Werner Herzog, blazing headlong into the wilderness with a passionate cry. Call bullshit on the genre if you want, but turn this track up – even on some cheap headphones – and try not to get lost in the first twenty seconds. The climbing riff, the pulverizing stomp of the kick twelve seconds in: it’s heavy music for light people. The guitars don’t stop, but they never feel lost. Bands that play this technical style of pop-punk often find themselves careening through songs lead by a handful of guitar parts that are repeated ad-nausea. Not so much of that here –Lisboa and Mills play each note with precision and purpose, building on what came seconds before and driving the piece to one epic guitar solo and at least two climaxes.
Some would argue that this aversion to repetition will keep the band from crafting the hooks needed to get to the next level in their career. For pop radio that relies on an unwavering verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure (and let’s face it, leans rather heavily on the “chorus” part of that equation) that’s probably true, but there are moments in each song that will wrap around your brain and not let go – see the outro of “Five Points” or :25 into “Start Where You Are.”
Catchy as their peers? Maybe not. Bad name? Sure, but if those are the two biggest knocks against a band with this much skill, passion and intelligence they’re barely knocks at all. Wherever Half Hearted Hero go from here (barring “hiatus”) I’ll be following.
*Click the album cover to check out the track list and donate!*
The independent music community is a beautiful thing, and when it comes together to support a cause, the results are always special. In this case, a number of like-minded bands have donated tracks to create a compilation to raise money for our brothers and sisters in Japan.
As Soupy, singer of “The Wonder Years” explains in the press release:
“Last Friday we woke up in Maryland to read the news about the earthquake that struck Northern Japan and as the hours rolled by, things seem to go from awful to, well, worse than awful. News of tsunamis, floods, fires, radiation leaks and more poured in as we sat feeling helpless in the van. The idea struck to maybe text a few of our friends to see if we could get five or six songs together for a short comp to benefit the victims of this tragedy. I think it really speaks to the sense of community we have in this scene that within the two hour drive to Delaware, over 20 bands agreed to be a part of this. The comp is a collection of primarily rare, hard to find or unreleased recordings. The storefront was donated to us by Limited Pressing and currently, Paypal is allowing you to send money to charities without taking any fees. This means that, aside from the standard fee Paypal may take out when money enters an account, 100% of the money will be going to Americares to help the Japanese.”
As a human being, you can know your money is going to ease the immense suffering overseas and as a music fan, you’re getting a collection of unreleased, rare, and hard to find tracks from a cross-section of the major players in the current (pop) punk/indie/DIY scene. The track listing is no joke – Transit, Man Overboard, The Wonder Years, Valencia, The Swellers, Koji, Balance and Composure – these are the dudes you need to know. Kind of reminds me of the “Welcome to the Family” days of Drive Thru.
Go. Download. If you can afford $5, you can afford $10. These stand-up dudes are going above and beyond to offer something in return for your help.
“Stay Young” by Save Your Breath:
By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC
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