Bad Parts, Be The Speak You Change About, CCS, Elevator Days, Even On The Worst Nights, I Think I Broke It, indie, Like Glass, Mixtapes, music review, Ordinary Silence, pop-punk, punk, Swirling, The Greatest Generation, The Wonder Years, Warped Tour, Williamsburg, You Look Like Springtime
The most exciting things coming out in the world of pop-punk these days are the bands that are breaking from genre conventions and embracing a mature, experimental spirit. Because where most bands seem to revel in youth, dragging on their teenage years for as long as they can, a band like Mixtapes write songs that anticipate the inevitable change known as growing up, and expertly capture the dread that comes along with it. In their level of maturity and willingness to leave the past behind, they share more in common with the Williamsburg set than Warped Tour. Ordinary Silence shows us a glimpse at the possibilities that could come from such a beautiful intersection of indie rock introspection and punk rock energy.
The band wastes no time in nostalgia, another oddity in the genre that spends so much time in that field. Instead, they look at the past for what it is: a painful place, but one that has given them ample learning experience rather than a series of hopelessly scarring experiences. Opening track “Bad Parts” immediately puts away wistful backward-looking and “saying why” in favor of trying to “make it fucking happen,” which is refreshing in a scene that seems to always be asking the question, but is so fixated on the perceived profundity of the question that they don’t care to find the answer, and it’s no wonder the critical world has a hard time taking pop-punk seriously because of it. On “Elevator Days,” the subject matter approaches a level of irony usually only seen in indie rock circles, because while they do address nostalgia here, it is not in an appreciative way, a sardonic look on a cliché that doesn’t very often get questioned these days. On the other hand, there are some moments where they get lost in looking back fondly, like on “CCS,” and admittedly this is where they’re at their weakest, but they temper these drawbacks with heart and humility, saving an earnest track from becoming mere filler. In “You Look Like Springtime,” Mixtapes’ regard for everyday problems as life-changing events manifests itself most clearly, and doesn’t turn itself inside out with soul-searching, instead focusing on how that life is changing. “Be The Speak You Change About” wraps the whole thing up perfectly, bemoaning “washed up bands” and declaring “I don’t care anymore,” an attitude that, hopefully, anticipates the eventual dissatisfaction with nostalgia acts currently dominating music, and puts Mixtapes truly ahead of the game in maturity.
Musically, the band still plays that recognizable brand of infectious punk that brought them to our attention on previous releases, but has more substance than previous power-pop sweetness found on Even On The Worst Nights. They’re more experimental, more bold, but also still more melodic and tuneful than equally innovative peers The Wonder Years. “Swirling” bears some resemblance to that band in sheer emotional intensity, but still seems more subdued and accessible. Energetic tracks like “I Think I Broke It” and “Like Glass” are pensive enough not to be throwaways, but bouncy enough to let the sulk wear off. It’s a demonstration of the band’s excellent sense of pace and timing (not just musically – this is their 2nd album in 2 years, and their 10th solo release in just under 4 years, and they’ve yet to show any signs they’re slacking off in creativity). And while “CCS” has some (comparatively) iffy lyrics, the vocals are some of the most impressive on the album, the two voices working off each other wonderfully, demonstrating the benefit of having two vocalists with such different ranges. It may be inappropriate to draw comparison to the Pixies, but between the awesome harmonies and the driving bass line on “Happy And Poor,” it’s hard not to be reminded just a bit. Individually, “Swirling” is the best display of Ryan’s vocal abilities, whereas “Happy And Poor” sees Maura give her strongest performance.
Ordinary Silence is an incredible achievement for the band, and stands alongside The Wonder Years’ The Greatest Generation as, by far, one of the best pop-punk albums of the year. At the rate the rate Mixtapes releases new material, one may wonder if they’re going to run out of quality material, but it seems just as likely that their feverish output only adds to their musical growth, and if their no-doubt-soon forthcoming release follows the exponential trajectory of quality music that the band has followed thus far, Mixtapes will surely turn out to be a truly revitalizing force in punk rock.
Recommended Tracks: Bad Parts, Elevator Days, Swirling, Be The Speak You Change About