Issue #96: Gentlemen’s Brawl by Broadway
January 8, 2018
Released On June 19, 2012
Released By Uprising Records
Broadway was a band I really had a bit of trouble getting, and getting into — I have to wonder how my other OYR compatriots will react to them, being exposed to them for the first time as part of this whole process. I suppose we’ll find out soon.
When I first heard them, they had only released their first album, Kingdoms, which had a much stronger connection to the metalcore scene out of which they’d evolved than Gentlemen’s Brawl, the album we will consider today, betrays. Vocalist Misha Camacho’s high, piercing tones were in particular tough to reconcile myself to; in truth, I hated his voice at first. But the catchiness of the band’s songcraft and the mix of chunky metallic guitars and tuneful, emotional melodies kept me coming back for long enough that I soon adapted to, and even grew to love, the glinting metallic sheen of Camacho’s peculiar high notes.
When I got Gentlemen’s Brawl upon its release a couple of years later, though, I felt like the band had finally found their true calling. As much as I do today love Kingdoms, I can’t deny that it’s a bit spotty. What’s more, its close adherence to the post-Chiodos progressive-emotional-metalcore template handicaps it a bit. On Gentlemen’s Brawl, this band spreads their wings and hits their stride, if I may mix metaphors, moving more in the direction of emo-derived melodies and pop-punk catchiness, and striking gold in the process.
In fact, listening to it now, I recognize another aspect that makes this album appeal to me, which I might not have caught were it not for my time with the album I wrote about for the last edition of OYR, Warrant’s Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. Gentlemen’s Brawl‘s mixture of metallic riffs and crunchy, distorted guitars with flashy vocal melodies and sugary pop choruses, complete with subtle yet essential synth swells, has a lot in common with my favorite glam metal albums. And it buries its hooks into my brain just as adroitly.
The whole thing starts with “Party At Sean’s House,” a triumphant melodic hardcore tune with lyrics that address the listener personally. After a charming greeting (“Hey, what’s up? How are you? It feels so good to be back”), Misha speaks frankly about playing in a struggling band chasing their dreams — “Wasting away in a tiny van / I’m hoping for grace and a big, big check” — before the band drops the tempo from the driving verses, jumping into a bouncy chorus that communicates hope and anticipation of greater things to come. “It’s 4 AM and I’m the only one sober / My friends are dancing on the living room sofa / It’s a good time — no more bad times / I’ve made it home.”
That’s not the whole story, though — it never is on this surprisingly multi-faceted album. Later, in a bridge, Misha sings, “It’s past 5 and it seems like I’m the only one to survive the night / Maybe if life wasn’t so hard I’d still be passed out in Sean’s front yard.” Here, Misha and Broadway communicate the dark underside of their chosen life paths. Being in a band is exciting, it offers promise of a fuller life than almost anything else these young men could do with themselves straight out of high school, but after an album that garnered less success than they’d have hoped for, they come home from tour older and wiser, facing some real-world complications that make it harder to just party and crash out the way they might once have done.
“Better Things” offers a more straightforward view of the uncertainty that lies at the heart of the boys-in-a-band dream that has clearly gotten Broadway this far, but not quite as far as they’d hoped to get. This song and side two counterpart “Medication” are the closest this album gets to a ballad, one of several reasons Gentlemen’s Brawl stands significantly above their first album in quality. That record got dragged to a screeching halt by a straight-up lighters-out high school slow dance called “AWOL,” which has always sent me running for the skip button.
Here, “Better Things” improves upon that formula by giving us a slightly slower tune with introspective verses in which Misha for once lowers his piercing falsetto into smoother, lower tones and admits his fears. “I guess I’m chasing my dreams til my death,” he croons. “It’s so ironic that honestly / I don’t think the means are worth it in the end.” But then the band jumps into a chorus just as bouncy as that of “Party At Sean’s House,” one that could almost show up on a mid-80s Bon Jovi album (and that is not a diss). Misha lets us know that he “won’t stop til every bone inside my body falls apart,” then sings, “I won’t stop til I hear you sing along at the top of your lungs to every word in every song I wrote for you.”
Here we are again, with another song about trying to connect with an audience that may or may not be there. It’s clear in many of these songs that this album was written after a significant amount of time occupying secondary and tertiary slots in the metalcore package tours that dominated the entire scene five years ago when Gentlemen’s Brawl came out. In addition to their own struggles to connect to audiences who’d come not to see them but to see bands playing two hours after them, this album also spends time looking at the less than appetizing things they saw from their vantage point backstage.
Most prominently, there’s the album’s centerpiece and the catchiest jam on this whole record, “I Am Not A Rockstar.” As with the insecurities and lamentations expressed in “Party At Sean’s House” and “Better Things,” this song tackles its subject matter not with solemn condemnation or moody introspection, instead putting a glossy melodic sheen over the whole thing with some incredible sugary melodies that take this album as close as it gets to glam metal. Meanwhile, Misha’s snarky lyrics get inside the head of the most repugnant sort of sleazeball these guys would have encountered while opening for said sleazeball’s band on tour.
“Sorry, I only talk to chicks that are underage / so call me up and if you’re still cute / I just might see you backstage,” Misha sings, channeling the stereotypical (and unfortunately very real) phenomenon of the scumbag metalcore band singer. Then the band shifts into a powerful melodic smart bomb of a chorus, in which Misha soars to the most extreme excesses his incredibly high vocal range allows him. “I am a rockstar,” he sings, inverting the song’s overly defensive title. “Why can’t you see? Stop trying to ruin my fun.”
As a denunciation of the all-too-common sins of the touring band full of spoiled, immature man-children, it isn’t as full-throated as one could imagine issuing from a heavier, angrier band. But precisely because this poison pill is delivered from the center of the very scene these ugly behaviors spawn from, it carries some real weight. What’s more, it’ll have you walking around running errands softly singing “I am a rock staaaarrr…” under your breath for days. The most irresistibly catchy songs always contain strong potential for listener embarrassment. Embrace it.
The album-ending title track is the most perfect reflection of the band Broadway was at the time they made this album. Sadly, other than Misha Camacho and rhythm guitarist Sean Connors, the entire band turned over in-between each of their three albums, resulting in a somewhat schizophrenic discography that misses as often as it hits. This fact probably explains why, after self-releasing their third album in 2015, Broadway finally gave up the dream… or at least, this version of it. But Gentlemen’s Brawl shows what they could have been if they’d kept it together and kept growing instead of fracturing under the weight of the struggle. And the song they named the album after is a perfect encapsulation of this band at the height of their powers, deploying all the tricks in their arsenal to perfect effect.
It alternates double-time verses that are pure melodic hardcore with choruses that split the difference between bouncy glam thrills and chugging metalcore stomp. Misha busts out his high, gleaming tenor one more time to deliver some witty but pointed lyrics about the culture of two-faced gossip that infects so many underground music scenes (and really, almost any social group you could be part of, at any age. I really wish this song wasn’t incredibly relatable… but it is. It so is). “So were you planning on ever coming clean about the shit you talk alone?” he demands. “Because your voice echoes farther than your buses or your homes.” That “buses” bit is as good a clue as any that this song, once again, is inspired by the dark underside of the package-tour life.
“Is it common practice to be slandering some kid that you don’t know?” Misha sings, then as the band drops into yet another one of those hella catchy half-time choruses, declares “Let’s keep our gloves on for this one. Let’s keep it classy, folks,” as if he’s an old-time boxing referee. The real message here, though, is for everyone to quit with the negative attitudes and try to find common ground, and reasons to be friends, not enemies. On the bridge, Misha sings, “To try and make amends, to right our wrongs in the end, let’s just be gentlemen. Because the truth is, I never had anything to say about you.”
I like this band’s attitude. I like their melodies, and their heavy guitar crunch. I like their synthesis of metalcore crunch, pop-punk melody, and glam metal bounce. I’ve spent a lot of time with this album over the five years since it came out. I hate that so few other people seem to have ever discovered it. And now I’m giving it to you, to see if you can find the charm and delight hidden beneath an album that was very clearly created through the lens of a particular moment in time for a particular subgenre that, five years later, has a very limited amount of adherents who’ll still admit their love in public.
I hope it meets with your approval.
Drew Necci (@buzzorhowl)
Insightful Scholar Of The Underground
Lofty pop-punk built on a foundation of post-hardcore and metalcore that reluctantly seems to reach for more.
It’s Sunday afternoon… I’m sipping iced coffee and thinking about an album I listened to while on a run around my neighborhood… Off Your Radar must be back! As a creature of habit, I missed this ritual, and it feels good to be at it again. Speaking of habits, Gentlemen’s Brawl set off a familiar form of processing whereby my brain keeps spitting out a single phrase when I’m listening closely to music. This time it was “inflection point” — a mathematical term I can’t resist appropriating in the way folks often do in the corporate world. When I hear pop punk, I hear conflicting qualities converging and diverging continuously, like the polish of high-quality production alongside the raw intensity of a genre that has DIY in its DNA. The drum sounds on Gentlemen’s Brawl might be the best example — chunky and aggressive, thickening the mix significantly while still letting precision shine through. Dirty, without being messy. Another inflection point: The confidence of high vocal notes hit with vigor alongside the sensitivity of diaristic lyrics. I’m reminded of the Death Cab For Cutie song “Where Soul Meets Body” — that mind-body connection and how the two relate to one another. I loved the “Perception is the key to mind over matter” line in “I Can’t Do This Alone,” and my ears definitely perked up when I heard “I am made of skin and memories” in “Faster Faster.” I spent part of Saturday listening to the Radiolab “Emergence” episode, in which they talk about how it’s not your brain’s synapses that determine who you are, but the way those synapses interact with one another. Heady stuff… literally. Radiolab, Broadway, and iced coffee… great ways to greet 2018.
Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds
The introduction of the first song, “Party At Sean’s House,” on Broadway’s 2012 album, Gentlemen’s Brawl, worried me. Heavy chugga chugga hardcore as I am recovering from the holiday season and just want to listen to something best described as “pleasant and non-offensive”? Hard pass. I was happy that the song quickly switched to upbeat pop punk/post-hardcore, with appropriately introductory lyrics referencing the time between the Gentleman’s Brawl and the band’s last album, Kingdoms: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been here / But not a damn thing’s changed in these past 3 years.” The song is also about returning from being on tour and knowing things have changed: “Wasting away in a tiny van / I’m waiting for breaks and a big big check / To clear all of my debt and this weight off my back.” This made me think of the last Florida band OYR covered, Less Than Jake, and how GNV FLA showed the band becoming increasingly self-aware and grown up. Thank goodness Broadway also has a sense of humor, as seen in “I Am Not A Rockstar,” a satire of sorts of mid-’00s scene bands, “I still have Myspace fans that / Will love me no matter what I do or say.” The music is also that of a band growing up — while Gentlemen’s Brawl has a lot in common with other records I’ve heard, there is a lot that sets the band apart. I love how they seamlessly switch from a great melody that reminds me of Bleachers (!!!) to a chugging guitar riff or fast drum beat, like in the fantastic, funny “I’ve Got The Itis.” And there are synths! Swoon. I am sure many people could do without the excessively auto-tuned vocals, but as an avid pop music listener, it didn’t bother me that much. Broadway’s Gentlemen’s Brawl, with its clean production and great melodies, is definitely a punk record for pop music lovers.
Melissa Koch (@bunnycaper)
Mediocre Runner, Aspiring Celebrity DJ
Broadway’s Gentlemen’s Brawl scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. I wasn’t previously aware that I wanted to hear what the intersection of Motion City Soundtrack and Killswitch Engage sounded like. I grew up on 2000s pop punk and I’m a metalhead, so this was in my wheelhouse for sure. I hadn’t heard of these guys until now, so Broadway can thank OYR for the Spotify streams over the last week while I was at the gym. (By the way, this is a surprisingly great record for working out, and this is coming from someone who prefers Trivium or Cattle Decapitation as a soundtrack for lifting.) Broadway definitely play to their strengths throughout the proceedings — that is, self-aware and often funny observations about life (including being in a touring band), and earworm hooks with stunning immediacy — making for a satisfying listen start to finish, given the narrowed songwriting focus from Kingdoms. I imagine that Misha Camacho’s vocals can be polarizing, but I’m down with him as a singer if only because of nostalgia. And I’m okay with that. I was also struck by what Camacho had to say. Broadway’s satire of selling out (as on “I Am Not A Rockstar“) works because a line like, “But I sold all my friends to the devil / For a brand new double kick pedal” is cleverly subversive (and a to metal) without being cynical. Similarly, their earnestness shines through on the album opener: “Wasting away in a tiny van / I’m waiting for breaks and a big, big check / To clear all of my debt and this weight off my back.” Wikipedia tells me they broke up (save for an apparent one-off reunion show), and that’s a shame. I’d see them live.
Steve Lampiris (@stevenlampiris)
Sure, Let’s Go With That
I grew up on Long Island and tried my best to enter the music scene there from 2008 until 2014. Whenever my sub-par alternative band would book a show, we’d inevitably end up supporting a post-hardcore act. Their fans would generally tolerate us for at least a full 30 minutes until their pity claps would fade in to an awkward silence. Naturally, after I’d regained my composure, I would stick around the venue and try and convince people to buy my terrible demos. During those pitiful negotiations — that would go something like, “No, it’s okay. Please just take it. My dad won’t let me keep them in his trunk of his car anymore.” — I would be exposed to some great local bands with what felt like endless reserves of energy. So you need to just trust me when I say that when it comes to the genre of post-hardcore, I’m somewhat of an aficionado. Well except this. Until tonight, I thought I’d heard every catchy one liner, every song about a party, or ex-girlfriend, or unrealized potential, but I’m taking it all back now. Gentlemen’s Brawl by Broadway takes all the familiar expectations of post-hardcore and adds a little something unique to the mix. You see, Broadway’s songs are so thoughtful and earnest, and it’s this quality that tends to set off alarm bells for your average hardcore fan who tends to value how “heavy” something is over how good it is overall. I can happily say that Gentlemen’s Brawl is about as heartfelt and playful as you can get before a grown man in basketball shorts and a snapback comes and tells you that you don’t know what heavy even is, bro. So, don your snapbacks with pride and make sure to stretch out your hamstrings before you hit play on this album. Remember, there is no crying in post-hardcore, bro.
Erin Calvert (@erinpcalvert)
Elder Goth In The Making
Here is a live band jaded by the touring life musicians have to commit to… yet still they perform.
Opening with an unrelenting drive that never subsides, Gentleman’s Brawl pulsates throughout the entire album. A decidedly pop punk album from what had been a more hardcore band, the energy packed into each song gives the whole a kind of jumpy, anthemic vitality that leads to a chest-forward, fist-pumping excitement. Pushed to the forefront musically is singer Misha Camacho, whose nasal crooning shines with clarity through the lead guitar and rapid drums, save for those occasional screams that punctuate in an echo to their former sound. Fans of the band seemed to feel let down at the time of the release, feeling that a noticeable change in sound was more a letdown than a natural musical progression; as a newcomer to the band with this album, however, there’s nothing holding me back from enjoying the niche pop punk tracks except the sometimes boilerplate lyrics. Paradoxically mixed in with some solid songwriting, lyrics like “I’m so lazy, I’m so tired, yeah” are a drag away from the fun of the album. Still, at the heart of the album is a controlled pop frenzy, dirty enough to please but uplifting enough for the teenagers.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
Pop punk is one of those genres that, much like pop country, you know it mere micro seconds after you start to hear it. There are instrumental choices, production decisions, and performative norms, that all result in the instantaneously recognizable qualities that accompany these very distinctly constructed styles. All this being said, Orlando’s Broadway takes such premises and tosses them right out the window. Well, maybe not every premise of pop punk is tossed. The high amount of tonal sheen on the guitars, excessive vocal manipulation — read: Melodyne and-or Auto-Tune — to smooth out an excessively head and nasal driven vocal register, and the prominently mixed and dynamically loud drums are each amply represented on Broadway’s 2012 LP, Gentlemen’s Brawl, keeping the band’s ultimately pop punk identity intact. What’s interesting however, is that despite coming away from Gentlemen’s Brawl thinking the very straightforward through of, “That was a pop punk band singing pop punk songs,” the album didn’t actually kick things off with such a plain and obvious impression. In fact, opening track, “Party At Sean’s House,” started the album down a path that felt severely hard rock or even a touch alternative metal a la 10 Years, in its presentation and sound shape and arrangement: A rapid and sharply defined double kick; chugging, repetitious low guitar and bass power chords; rapid and (very) audible ride cymbal crashes; and little melodic push whatsoever in the beginning hook. The direction shifts dramatically of course, once the very singable and fourth-wall-breaking lead vocal comes around (“Hey what’s up? How are you? It’s feels so good to be back”) and upon many replays, some melodic guitar peeks through, along with deep chiming bells and even a sneaky glockenspiel. But to say that my ears had to dig in the mix for those melodic elements would be an understatement. They were clearly not meant to be the frontline parts and this hard rock top coat dresses up other pieces of Gentlemen’s Brawl as well (particularly with “Vagrant Stories,” and “I’ve Got the Itis“). While tinting the record a heavier tonal color than other more light and sprightly pop punk peers who lean extensively on tinny lead guitars and catchy sing-a-long refrains for their fuel (see bands like Yellowcard, Simple Plan, Cartel), this partial deviation from easy to learn pop punk norms doesn’t reflect like Broadway was trying too hard to be too cool. Nor does it show the band departing from the sub-genre while trying to still thinly ride its coattails purely for audience panning purposes. The precise way they have chosen the tones of their instruments and the structure of their songs makes this band not straight rock enough to be punk rock like (earlier) Paramore but not purely pop punk enough to fit 100% like a glove onto a classic Warped Tour bill. Gentlemen’s Brawl could have resulted in eleven songs that fight to establish Broadway’s ideas but instead managed to come together to make a unified record that is just different enough to toss out some of pop punk’s predictability factor and present something at least moderately unexpected, that might just appeal to an audience looking for pop punk with more weight and bite.
Kira Grunenberg (@shadowmelody1)
Prolific Sonic Scribe & Unifier
First and foremost, it must be said that “I sold all my friends to the devil / For a brand new double kick pedal” is a fantastic couplet. I’ll talk about the album soon, but let’s move the truly important critique to the start and let it set in. This album had me from the very start. When I was younger, I was very into pop-punk. And I still am. Every time I discover a band I’ve never heard of that makes me want to do a deep dive into their back catalog, it makes me feel like I’m 16 again, discovering The Ataris on a Fat Wreck Chords compilation and getting on Napster to see if their other songs were anywhere nearly as amazing as “San Dumas High School Football Rules.” (They weren’t, but that’s not their fault.) All of this is to say that, with the opening lines of “Party At Sean’s House,” Broadway had me hooked. The lyrics are energetic but also understandable. The melodies are familiar but still very exciting to explore. It’s a great pop-punk album and I look forward to adding it to my list of examples in the ongoing argument that “Pop Punk Is Not Dead!”
James Anderson (@unabashedjames)
Devoted Docent Of Musical Concepts
Like some colicky bastard child of Buzzcocks, Green Day, and Killing Joke, Broadway come out of the gate obnoxious, hyper-charged, and relentless — with barely any let up over the course of Gentleman’s Brawl. That commitment to finish what and where they started sometimes works against them, with the churning guitars and machine-gun drums of one song running into the same sonics in another song. The idea of slick punk would have seemed impossible in the first throes of the genre, but by the time Broadway rolled around, it was almost de rigueur for bands to show no sign of struggle with the mechanics of music-making — which is another way of saying there is a virtuosic thread to the sound of Gentlemen’s Brawl, with all the pros and cons that implies. Because of these minor misgivings and my own lack of real affinity with this brand of punk, I think the first song, “Party At Sean’s House,” will always be my favorite. All of the elements of Broadway’s sound are there and the lyrics are some of the best on the record. I love how the words manage to be both specific and relatable, with the chorus being especially clever — and poignant: “‘Cause it’s four AM and I’m the only one sober / My friends are dancing on the living room sofa / It’s a good sign, no more bad times / I’ve made it home.” We’ve all been there in one way or another, and when they modulate up an octave on the final repeat, it’s almost impossible not to stand up and cheer. That’s a formula almost no one would want to mess with.
Jeremy Shatan (@anearful)
Prescient & Appreciative Musical Omnivore
Bold yet judicious. Trenchant yet aroise.
This album caught me off guard from the very beginning. The hyper-aggressive opening shred of “Party At Sean’s House” had me prepared for a death metal scream-fest, but I was pleasantly surprised by the clear, upbeat (dare I say whimsical?) vocals cutting through the hellish foundation. The juxtaposition is quite striking, actually, and carries throughout the album on “Vagrant Stories,” and “Gentleman’s Brawl.” There’s another juxtaposition that enhances the record as well — even though the vocals have a youthful tone and exuberance, the subject matter on the record is quite mature. Take the reflective “Vagrant Stories,” for example: “Maybe I was made for something more than this / I’ve got to make it on my own / I’m just a mess without a home.” I’d be remiss I didn’t take a moment to highlight the A+ drum work throughout the record. There’s the relentless intensity of “Party At Sean’s House,” and “I’ve Got The Itis.” The off-beat switch up at the beginning of “Vagrant Stories” literally made my jaw drop, and I had to rewind the song immediately. Gentleman’s Brawl is a really solid effort from start to finish, and packs a hell of a punch!
Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford (@jclyde757)
Steadfast Hip-Hop Historian & Creator
There were a lot of bands in the 2000s that got labeled as either post-hardcore or emo, but when you take a deep look at their music, they were writing pop songs cloaked in distortion. I don’t mean that as an insult at all either, because I live for pop music. And we can call Gentlemen’s Brawl a post-hardcore record all we want — right off the bat, “Party At Sean’s House” blasts its way with some in-your-face riffing, and they even break it down in the title track — but I find that the best thing about this album are the pop hooks in almost every chorus. “It’s 4am and I’m the only one sober / my friends are dancing on the living room sofa” wormed its way into my head after my first listen. “I’m Not A Rockstar” also took up an immediate residence in my mind — it’s always healthy to have a sense of humor about yourself and its tongue-in-cheek lyrical depiction of a scene kid rockstar caught my attention just as much as its chorus. As someone who recently rediscovered their entire CD collection from high school, I have it on very good authority that if Broadway had been around in 2003, I would have owned at least one of their albums. Probably this one, in all likeliness. I’m also confident in saying that I would have nearly worn out the disc. I don’t often listen to bands like Broadway anymore, but I’ve managed to listen to Gentlemen’s Brawl three times in a row and I haven’t gotten close to sick of it yet.
Dustin Gates (@cmoncheermeup)
Relapsed Pop Culture Junkie
Happy New Year! Here’s to all the new music to be discovered in 2018! And to that note, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by this album. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but within the first few notes of the opening track “Party At Sean’s House,” I was hooked. Very catchy riffs and very Blink-182 sounding — which I love. ’90s/’00s nostalgia which is always a great listening experience for me. When I was younger, I loved bands like Mayday Parade, Marianas Trench, Sum 41, et cetera, and this band reminds me very much of that era. It’s the kind of music that really gets you fired up (in a good way). I can just picture being in the mosh pit at this concert and I’m loving it. Sometimes all you need is a really good rock album and as modern punk/rock albums go, this one is pretty awesome. I enjoyed the sound of the whole album, but I think my favourite track would have to be “Medication” because it has a bit of a slower pace while still being a fast paced song. I like when a band shows a range, and along with the backing music being a bit different, the vocals take a bit of a different sound as well, which really rounds out the album in my eyes. A great record overall for the first OYR issue of 2018.
Chelsea Kostrey (@chelseakostrey)
Retrophile & Festival Enthusiast
Honestly, I’m the last one you want to talk to pop punk about. I’ll sing along to songs that remind me of high school bus trips (“Fat Lip“), try my best to distance The Black Parade from the genre, and happily extol the greatness of some more recent bands (seriously check out Rebuilder), but for the most part, my thoughts on the genre are conflicted between the genre’s lack of originality and sincerity. Honestly, I try to keep an open mind (and it pays off — see OYR Issue #77), but like I said, I’m probably the last one you want to talk to pop punk about. Knowing all of this, any praise I lay on Broadway’s feet is just going to feel contrived, and I could have avoided this problem by just not divulging all of this, but maybe showing some transparency in my life will be the change I want to see in the world. Who knows? I’ll say bluntly that like a lot of pop punk, the vocals feel tiring at points, and the music — though a bit different with the hardcore and metalcore aspects — just doesn’t do it for me. Is it bad? Absolutely not, and if you find yourself constantly retreating into a pop punk playlist that skews on the heavier side, then this is the record for you. For me, it’s just not, but I can say with absolute certainty that I’ll be revisiting this record a lot. Like a lot a lot. I know — I’m making no sense again and eliciting eye-rolls. I deserve it, but hear me out. Sometimes, the good outweighs the bad. You hear this a lot in praise for a mediocre album that strives for something more or something different. “The ambition surpasses the misstep.” I feel like I’ve read that phrase a few dozen times in the last year. Though it does matter, intention can’t outweigh execution in my eyes, so that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m dancing around is how one aspect of the music so outweighs the lyrics and sounds that would have made me otherwise turn the record off: the lyrics. The lyrics! I really don’t feel like listing all the ones that struck me out here (except for one, just wait), but trust me when I say few — and I mean few — bands have lyrically nailed a sophomore album like this. After having your whole life to write your first record, your second record, for a good percentage of artists, inevitably becomes one written from a road-weary mindset. You miss home, you’re tired, you’re drifting. It’s not bad, but it also lacks originality more than I think pop punk does. Broadway’s record is a very road-weary, tour-weary, whatever-you-want-to-call-it record, but the tone is changed so much. Under a lesser wordsmith, the songs would be bitter and surly. Here, they are sharp, perceptive, witty, and charming. This isn’t a band that went out on the road and found a new side of themselves, conflicting them from life on the road and life at home. This is a band that saw the bleakness of the music industry, and the reality most tend to look past, and made the gutsy move to chronicle it in a way that’s surprisingly relatable and exceptionally striking. “I Am A Rockstar” alone is a song most wish they could write, with its takedown being eerily familiar for anyone who’s ever known a “cool” rocker. Honing in on the words of each song, the music seemed a bit better and the vocals felt on point. It was like rose-colored glasses for my pessimistic ears, and I swore this was something special. Of all the great one-liners and thematic ideas, one really struck me, especially in a time where we seem to be striving for a moment that we know will never come. “Now the irony is the harmony.” Multifaceted and scathing as ever, it sums up all to know and love about Broadway, a band anyone who loves strong lyrics should check out now.
Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug)
Garrulous Aural Braggart
The Cake By The Cake
Chosen By Doug Nunnally