Ah—to be young and punk in 2010. The Menzingers had just released Chamberlain Waits, The Flatliners brought us Cavalcade, and Make Do and Mend (remember those guys!?) were a promising newcomer with End Measured Mile. Suddenly, being influenced by Hot Water Music and Leatherface were in vogue and the result was a golden age of gravel-throated melodic punk groups. Since then, the novelty has worn off and melodic punk soldiers on in a decidedly less trendy manner—existing as simply as any other subgenre, with occasional sleeper hits and a total lack of mania surrounding them.
Misgivings from the UK remind me of that golden era. Hermitage is their new album, courtesy of Lockjack Records, and it almost reads as a tribute to the style. While I’m sure they didn’t intend to write a meta-analysis of early-aughties melodic punk, the album so earnestly delivers on its hallmarks, that at least for me, let’s me nod my head in nostalgia for a time that was eight years ago. So, you have crunching chords, noodly (yet tasteful) fretwork, melodically balanced aggression; all fronted with open-throated, plaintive vocals.
“Call it Off” opens the album with some buzzsaw chords and emo lead stylings. If there’s one style that I think might be having its current heyday, it’s emo, and as I see more and more of its tropes seep its way into proper punk, I wonder if we’re surrounded by albums that are being codified into classics as speak—future punk rock classics largely unlistened to by actual punk fans. Are we, as die-hard punk fans being left behind by our own genre because we are not keeping with the times? I don’t know, entirely, whether the genre is evolving while its getting-older sect is stagnating, but I do know this: melodic punk and emo have always been bedfellows, and they continue to merge in interesting ways, but vitally, only in one direction. Look at Mom Jeans, look at Graduating Life—these are bands on the emo forefront incorporating punk rock in interesting ways, they are big bands getting bigger. Misgivings is not a hanger-on for playing melodic punk—emo influences or not—but it is a glimpse of the other side of the coin. Traditional punk rock, defiantly or not, is not the powerhouse it used to be. “Call it Off” is a good, anthemic song, but you have to wonder, in 2018, can a melodic punk band playing shout-along anthems truly transcend the genre ghetto?
I don’t think so, personally. But, that doesn’t mean Hermitage is a bad album. It might however mean, that melodic punk is now something of a boutique genre. A throwback in and of itself, dedicated to aging Fest-goers the same way record players and typewriters still move at thrift shops. With the state of the scene treatise out of the way, I’ll say that Misgivings are a competent band, and Hermitage does excel at what it aims to do, even if time has blunted its edge.
There is a lot of strong songwriting across the album. “The Artless Life” is a catchy barn-burner that feels almost Billy Bragg-ish in its rootsy, sarcastic call to arms. It engages in a couple of genre cliches (“everyone is singing out of tune”), but otherwise it features a strong chorus and a worthy arrangement. “The Last Word” is another album highlight. The song opens with a thumping bass line that lets the song breathe before jumping into its centerpiece lick, and in a live setting you could easily picture a crowd singing breathlessly along with, “I might be paranoid, but it’s not crazy!”
Hermitage is a solid album of singalong punk that hearkens back to when this subgenre seemingly ruled the scene. Critically, it both suffers and succeeds because of this: Misgivings is playing honest music that has been made canon years ago; but where punk has been, it also shares its DNA with where punk is going—leaving the album itself in a strange Twilight Zone. Ultimately though, this is punk rock: we’re used to not being relevant, and for those who came of age with gravel-throats and singalongs, Hermitage will feel like coming home.