In a moment of self reflection, I realized I am the horrendous cliche of a beard punk dude. I’m on the bad side of my twenties, my face is half-covered in fur, and I finally gave in and bought a pair of New Balance’s. So, keep in mind, when you’re reading this review, I’m a man with a fair amount of flannel. This is sorta the stuff I go for. So, when Goddamnit’s I’ll Never Be Okay, I’ll Never Be the Same was pitched to me, it tripped over my most valued inner search engine optimizer– FFO: Hot Water Music.
Well, when you invoke the saviors, how can I say no?
Goddamnit is from Philly, and accordingly, they’re not out of place with all of the associations I have with Pennsylvania punk. Ma Jolie, The Menzingers, Captain, We’re Sinking, Restorations– you know the names. They play melodic punk colored with post-hardcore and emo, intricate arrangements that share the spotlight with the songwriting. Goddamnit has a touch more alt rock in their sound than the others, openly owning up to Foo Fighters’ influence in their press release. The result is a pretty solid sounding album, in the sense that some of those 90s emo sounds can be airy and fleeting. The alt rock grounds the album into something more substantial and a bit chunkier. It’s a difficult balance, because a little too much in the other direction could have drained all the punk from Goddamnit’s veins. For the most part, the balance is struck and I’ll Never Be Okay, I’ll Never Be the Same ends up being one of the better albums of 90s worship I’ve heard in a long time without ever sinking too deep into pantomime.
“Fix Dis” begins with a phone call sound byte that is probably supposed to signal desperation, but doesn’t quite nail an emotion for me, as much as it lampshades a musical trope. But then again, I’ve never been a big fan of that sort of thing. Either way, the song is excellent, a bookmark that opens the page to acts like Quicksand and Sunny Day Real Estate and bridges the gap to modern melodic punk. “Letterbox” is one of my favorite songs on the record, with its clackety-clak drumbeats and guitar-heavy attack. When it gets to the loud riffage in the end, it sweeps you up in energy before succumbing to noise.
When it comes to bellowed choruses and post-hardcore hold-and-release, Goddamnit is at their best. The middle of the album is filled with strong, contemplative jams and big hooks. “Third Time’s a Charm” is the closest they get to any outside the box musical decisions with a couple piano chords, which is a shame because, I’d hate to think that the genre that gave us Fugazi, Shellac, and Quicksand can only grow in the one direction that modern punk has decided to drag it– to unabashed accessibility. But, that’s exactly where I’ll Never Be Okay… takes us, ending the album with an acoustic pop punk song. The most interesting part of “The Message” is the programmed, fuzzed out hip hop beat that opens it; otherwise, it feels like a saccharine call back to the worst of the genre, another “Swing Life Away” to be filed away as a reason to lift the needle early.
Goddamnit succeeds more than they misstep, and if you can handle I’ll Never Be Okay, I’ll Never Be the Same’s dalliances with the sillier traits of their influences, there’s a lot to admire in this release. The pop-acoustic finish and megaphone vocals are easy to glance over when you get into the meat of the album. There are a couple opportunities for editing, but as an album, it largely succeeds when it is played loud and driven toward catharsis on the backs of winding riffs.