Pop-punk is an interesting term. It can very easily carry positive or negative connotations depending on what band it is referring to. Sometimes pop-punk can be simple, like packing dog shit inside a filet, calling it the special of the week, and then force-feeding it to thousands of pre-teens with no taste buds. At other times it can refer to the horde of indistinguishable groups that still call an indie label home, but have been just as artistically innovative as those aforementioned bands. Finally, pop-punk can mean bands like Jawbreaker, the Lawrence Arms, Dillinger Four, or Green Day, who have been able to transcend their peers by creating music that is melodic, intense, intelligent and accessible. The Loved Ones are one of those bands.
The Loved Ones are one of Jade Tree’s most recent signings consisting of members from some of Philadelphia’s finest melodic hardcore bands. Singer and guitarist Dave Hause played in both Paint It Black and the Curse, while bassist Michael “Spider” Cotterman played in Kid Dynamite, and drummer Mike Sneeringer played in Trial By Fire. Still, with a punk pedigree like that, the Loved Ones are not quite what you would expect. The three scene veterans have kept the high level energy that fueled their former bands, but they have also embraced more pop and rock’n'roll influences. The distortion has been turned down a bit and the melodies have been turned up a lot.
The EP opens with “100K,” an up-tempo pop-punk song laced with rock licks and an amazing singalong chorus. Hause’s voice is part grit, part charm, and all sincerity. You don’t doubt him at all when he shouts “given the chance I’d rather rot in hell / then see you fade selling the lies they tell.” The second track, “Chicken,” picks up right where “100K” left off with fast, loud drumming, hummable vocal lines, and a simple chord progression that somehow doesn’t get old. After this, the EP lags a little bit with “Massive” and “Drastic,” not because they are bad songs, simply because they sound a bit too much like other bands. “Massive” sounds like it could have been a Hot Water Music track complete with Chuck’s gruff delivery, somber tone, and intricate bass line, while “Drastic,” with its common punk-gone-acoustic tone, sounds a lot like “Landlords” by Pinhead Gunpowder. The Loved Ones luckily return to their own sound on the closing track “Candy Cane” and leave you with another fast paced pop-punk gem.
Lyrically, Hause seems like he might have stolen a few pages from one of Matt Skiba’s notebooks. Lines like “so pour another it’s 3 AM, oh God this is insane / it’s killing me, it’s killing me / I know, I know I walked away but it’s you I’ll always blame / and it’s killing me/ if my liver swells up and spills out on the floor/ I’ll nail it to your door” and “How’d I get back here at this? Another cheap attempt at bliss / it might take more than this bottle to / forget about what I missed,” sound like they could have come directly from an Alkaline Trio album with their alcohol-soaked imagery and dark outlook. Luckily, like Skiba, Hause can deliver the words with a passionate voice and no sense of emo’s exaggeration.
The Loved Ones have produced an impressive first release. They play pop-punk songs that demonstrate a knack for songwriting while maintaining an aggressive edge. This EP demonstrates just how valuable pop-punk can be when dreams of being rock stars are cast aside for dreams of simply rocking.