The pop-punks from the Ibaraki Prefecture in Japan are back, Good Grief bringing what could be the best pop-punk release of the year in mini-album Square One. From the moment the mini-album begins, with an emotional spoken-word acoustic track reminiscent of how After Tonight began their iconic first-and-only album, there’s this special feeling surrounding it.
The boys in Good Grief have this incredible energy, which is translated into their music. As soon as the intro ends we’re brought into the track “Forever,” a pop-punk banger, complete with bright guitar work and gang vocals that just beg to be sang along with. The ending line of “I spend another night alone” slows things down to a brief sombre moment, but the energy is kicked right back up again with “Canvas.”
“Canvas” is another impressively crafted pop-punk gem, with some tasty melodies bringing us towards the shining center of the release. “The Paul,” followed by “Rotting In My Chest,” strikes me as quite probably my favorite pop-punk tracks in quite a long time. The Paul hits the ground running, leaning on the easycore influence quite a few Japanese pop-punk bands have. Yastin’s delivery of “This is my life!” hits hard in the middle of “The Paul,” then a final “YEAH” to finish off the track brings that intense energy up to boil.
“Rotting In My Chest” is everything you could want from a pop-punk song, calling on early Knuckle Puck and Real Friends with an iconic sound they grab hold of and make their own in a beautiful way. It’s one of those tracks that you can’t help but have on replay all day. “I hope you remember” stands out as that line you can’t help but sing along with, brings back how their track “Home” from a previous EP stood out as that endlessly singable tune.
Following that killer midsection is a nice reprieve, a gentle acoustic track in “Delete.” The flow of the mini-album is pretty spot on, and winds down with “Delete” into the finale of “Wasted Miles,” beginning with twinkly guitars but quickly working into their sound, making a nice bit of contrast. The flow of the track has the aura of some punkier emo tracks with the dips and rises, ending with passion, looking back on past mistakes.
Japanese pop-punk is a beautifully flourishing scene at a local level, with a lot of creativity and expression shown through the bands that work incredibly hard to build the very scene they love. In influence the scene sits somewhere around the Defend Pop Punk era, but drawing on elements of easycore, emo, and hardcore, Japanese pop-punk is creatively growing impressively. Good Grief always bring quality in catchy and emotional punk music, but Square One marks a step forward from there, honing their skills and putting together something really special. Don’t sleep on this!
Square One releases on September 8th. You can stream the mini-album below.