by Brian J. Audette
Less than a minute into Boys Club’s self-titled EP I’m pretty sure of what I’m getting myself into, but by the time the five songs play out, I think that maybe I’m only half right. Allow me to explain.
There’s been what some call an “Emo Revival” of sorts over the last few years; new bands recreating the sound of the late 90’s/early 00’s pop punk that for better or worse, reluctantly or not, became heir to the emo moniker. The name “emo” first surfaced as a reaction to a particular movement in certain hardcore punk circles in the mid 80’s and in a trend that would continue years down the line, was largely seen as something you didn’t want to be. By the time the still oft-maligned genre label went mainstream in the early 00’s it had been refined to describe a kind of pop punk typified by personal (often lovelorn) lyrics, bright, boyish vocals, and crunchy, but crisp guitar work. That’s what I hear immediately from Boys Club’s first two tracks and if I’m being honest: I’m a little fatigued with the whole emo revival thing right now, but I keep listening.
The playing up front on Boys Club is tight and the production is slick. On the heavier end of the spectrum I’m reminded of the almost metal Ryan’s Hope and UK balladeers Apologies, I Have None, but something about the vocals pulls me toward the realm of emo coffin nailers Fallout Boy and Panic at the Disco. I shake it off by the time the first two tracks finish however.
Third track “I Know” opens with a slower tempo and a near solid minute of guitar noodling. This isn’t the standard emo ballad though. Suddenly I’m back in the 90’s; post-grunge, but drenched in the tough-guy sensitivity of the era. I’m reminded of The Nixons’ 1995 LP Foma: a slick, but raucous affair that brought us the unforgettable “Sister.” Boys Club evoke some of the same qualities here. Guitar grunge and clean, delicate strums intermingle with meaty drum hits and crooning lyrics, as the song builds to a blazing solo before sulking away into the night.
When “True Love” begins, we’re lyrically back in emo territory, but the song goes off in that 90’s direction again, conjuring images of the poppier spectrum of what we then referred to simply as “Modern Rock.” Gin Blossoms, Clear Blue Something, bands like that keep popping into my head. At this point Boys Club would easily be at home on my radio circa 1996. Closer “Back in Time” stays the course with more emphasis on fancy noodling and a poppier beat. This is the credits song from a late 90’s early 00’s movie, featuring a cast of college age kids; the lead off single on the soundtrack. It all comes to an abrupt end and I’m forced to reconsider my initial emo assessment.
Whether you choose to use the term or not, there’s more than just Emo revival on Boys Club, though the band does follow the trend of late in guitar rock of reaching back a decade or two for inspiration. Speaking as someone whose musical taste was formed by that era, I’m not one to complain. Boys Club manage to keep it fresh though and there’s no quibbles to be had either with the production or the quality of their playing. Is it more than just nostalgia though? Maybe. There are moments on Boys Club that felt genuine to me and not just some blast from the past. Your mileage may vary, but for the most part, I think I dig it.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bjaudette.