The most successful pop music has a certain magic oomph. It can appear as a well-placed bridge, or a godlike key change (or many), or an impossible note belted at a song’s climax that sends an involuntary chill down your spine. Science says it’s hidden in an ornamental note called an appoggiatura, but for these purposes let’s just call it auditory umami: that moment in a song that makes your feelings explode, whether you want them to or not. We hear it most often in populist genres, where songwriters compose specifically to hook the largest amount of people possible, and sometimes it’s employed in bad faith (see: the Lumineers). But nowhere has it been more effective than in pop punk.
Brooklyn quartet Chumped is hot on the heels of this elusive sound. Their debut LP, Teenage Retirement, is no A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar (perhaps thankfully so), but it often finds that melodramatic sweet spot that made emo and pop punk hit so hard in the ’90s and ’00s. Synthesizing the aesthetic developed over the past few years by DIY pop-punk revivalists like Columbus’s All Dogs with the soaring instrumental prowess and energy of the old guard, Teenage Retirement, at its best, sounds like a new evolutionary stage of the genre.
Structurally, Chumped is working with a wide array of influences. There are times when their licks wax Weezeresque, like on “Hot 97 Summer Jam” and “Anywhere But Here”, and the cleverly titled “Novella Ella Ella Eh” is essentially “Don’t Speak” on uppers. On “Coffee”, bassist Doug McKeever takes the mic for a self-lacerating turn that could easily be mistaken for Swearin‘s Kyle Gilbride (see: “Crashing”). And in several instances (“Long Division”) they channel Aye Nako‘s measured confessional, spinning it upwards into a gloriously bitter bridge—”I hope wherever you end up it makes you happy/ And when you’re ready come and find me I’ll be waiting”—worthy of the great emo umami (emami?) gourmands, from Matchbook Romance to Jimmy Eat World.
The record does get caught in a few of the traps that separate the remembered from the forgotten in pop punk. Songs like “Long Division” and album opener “December Is the Longest Month” are handicapped by seemingly arbitrary melodies or half-heartedly structured verses; others sometimes spend half their length getting to their catchiest, tightest musical phrasings. At times, Teenage Retirement can feel like trying to scratch an itch millimeters beyond your grasp, because it’s obvious Chumped knows what they’re doing, or at least are 90 percent of the way there. Instrumentally, they succeed in spades, hitting angsty guitar-solo sweet spots again and again, the ones that make you shout, “YES!” in your car, punching the gas as you’re speeding down the highway.
The grown-up punks walk the line between the immature self-obsession that drove white suburban boy bands to their best apoplectic histrionics and the more graceful, articulate adulthood that characterizes the genre’s more contemporary potency. Take the empathetic, soaring elegance of “Old and Tired”, a comforting song about age and loneliness whittling down a loved one’s spirits: it’s more elegant and meaningful a statement than anything Jesse Lacey ever howled, and it’s delivered in just as powerful a package.
When they align themselves with pop punk’s present, however, Chumped also lean away from the elements that turned an earlier generation’s entitled complaints into pure gold: tight, slick, almost stupidly indulgent pop songwriting, completely littered with auditory umami. Not every DIY outfit in Brooklyn has the ability to write these kinds of songs, but Chumped, when they hammer it down and let it rip, can pull it off. Purists may argue that it’s this sickly sweetness that led to the end the genre’s first era, but in today’s overflowing indie milieu, melody and structure are what mark an album as exceptional. There are real possibilities buried here, just below the surface, and Chumped might produce greatness if they can dig them up.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1APYS37