Pop punk is a genre that’s gotten stale as of late. After being reinvented in the early years of the millennium to mean “blink-182 clones”, the genre had somewhat of a revival a few years ago when The Wonder Years released “The Upsides” and since then it seems as if every band in the scene has been using that album as the blueprint for their work, for better or for worse. And it works, there are leagues of pop punk fans gushing over gang choruses, positivity, and jumping up to the defense of their beloved genre. It’s ironic almost, considering how far removed the scene is from the pop punk bands of the 1990’s Lookout-era, but I digress. My point is that it’s easy to get lost in the sea of modern pop punk bands because of how similar they all sound, and sometimes it would just be nice to get a breath of fresh air.
Forever Came Calling is not that breath of fresh air. But they still managed to craft “Contender”, which is a solid debut album that still sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. Throughout its 24 minute run time, “Contender” is filled with bitter, fast-hitting tunes, and while it does fall victim to some clichés of modern pop punk, it’s still one of the better albums in the genre that I’ve heard in awhile.
Other than the vocals on the opening track “Learning” (which are mixed so low they might as well be the bass on a Dethklok album), everything about “Contender” is explosive. Catchy choruses ooze out of the album’s every pore, from the 1-2-3 punch of “For the Wolves”, “Harbours”, and “The Office” to the re-recording of “Front Porch Sunrise” (originally from the band’s split with Handguns) or the album’s sour title track. The songs all follow the same formulas that have been done before, but with the exception of “I’ll Be Better I Promise”, which sounds like it was ripped directly from the pages of early Taking Back Sunday, none of the tracks sound like they’re recycled versions of songs that were written ten years ago. That in itself is a pretty big accomplishment, and coupled with the fact that Forever Came Calling also wrote a catchy album, “Contender” is kind of a big deal. If it weren’t for Mixtapes, I would say that Forever Came Calling have released the pop punk album of the year.
“Contender” might not have many elements of classic pop punk. In fact, it barely has any outside of the fact that it’s four guys playing guitar-based music. However, if modern bands are going to continue to play the genre this way, they might as well do it like this. If anyone is going to defend pop punk, I’d put my money on Forever Came Calling.