Album Review: Broadway Calls – “Comfort/Distraction”

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After a four year wait, a lineup change, and a few stopgap releases, Broadway Calls have finally returned with a brand new studio album. Comfort/Distraction is a lot of things for the band… it’s their debut full length for No Sleep Records. It’s also their third album overall. And it may very well be their finest disc to date.

As far as the music is concerned, it’s easy to make comparisons to early Green Day. Both groups excel at crafting three minute melodies, writing lyrics about alienation and love (or lack thereof), and the songs on Comfort/Distraction are no exception. But whereas the long running Bay Area trio initially made a name for themselves by painting themselves into the corner of boredom and apathy (at least initially), Broadway Calls has a more ambitious take on life (and in turn, a more ambitious take on lyrical approach). Right in the opening song, “Bring on the Storm”, the band boldly announces its desire to take on the world. The idea of moving on to bigger and better things continues throughout the album: “Zombie World” uses imagery of the undead to conjure up pictures of people mindlessly moving through life while wanting to break out of the same old boring routine; “Life Is Rhythm” is another declaration of “fuck you” to your 20’s; and closing track “Full of Hope” ends with the band declaring that they at least want to see the scores in life evened out ever so slightly.

Lyrical ambitions aside, Broadway Calls treats listeners to some of their most infectious arrangements yet throughout Comfort/Distraction’s eleven tracks. Although both 2007’s Broadway Calls and 2009’s Good Views, Bad News were solid albums, Comfort/Distraction is the first Broadway Calls album in which every single track has the potential to be a fan favorite. From the heavy-hitting “Open Letter”, to the hardcore influence of “Life Is Rhythm”, to the full band arrangement of “Stealing Sailboats” (the original, acoustic version appeared on 2011’s Toxic Kids EP), it’s clear that the band has tweaked their songwriting abilities. In the studio, the band has always treaded dangerous ground in regards to whether they played pop or punk from the very beginning and Comfort/Distraction is no exception thanks to the crisp work done courtesy producer Bill Stevenson (producer for tons of bands, but arguably best known as drummer for the Descendents).

Most notably different in the composition of the songs is the lack of a distinct second vocalist. While there are backup vocals a-plenty throughout Comfort/Distraction’s eleven tracks, they lack that back and forth style that Broadway Calls began to develop on Good Views, Bad News. Whether this was a conscious decision made by the band, or just how the songs happened to turn out, makes no difference, as Ty Vaughn’s vocals are strong enough to carry the album from start to finish. The band’s self-titled album had already shown off Vaughn’s abilities as a sole vocalist, but Comfort/Distraction really cements him into the role.

The long wait time for the album to drop aside, Comfort/Distraction is a more than welcome addition to not just the band’s discography, but to the pop punk genre as a whole. Taking cues from their predecessors who also tight-roped the thin line of pop vs punk, Comfort/Distraction sees Broadway Calls walking in the not-quite-ready-to-break-into-the-mainstream limelight. In a lot of ways, this is probably what Green Day would have sounded like if Billie Joe had been bitten by the ambition bug when he was 25, rather than later in life. But I digress. Comfort/Distraction is one of those albums that is peppy enough to please your thirteen year old sibling, but fueled by enough anger and rage at being in your 20’s that it will appease the jaded punks as well.

4.5/5

RIYL: Green Day (circa-1992), The Gamits, The Wonder Years


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