For a few glorious years in the mid to late 90’s and even trickling into the early noughties, melodic skate/street punk ruled the airwaves of independent music. Back before the Warped Tour and Epitaph became purveyors of mascara streaked emo/screamo, they championed bands like Rancid, NOFX, Green Day (before they were broadway stars), Offspring, Pennywise and of course, Bad Religion. These were also the days of the Gilman Street Mission. The West Coast’s answer to CBGB’s that gave birth to, along with the aforementioned Green Day and Rancid; Operation Ivy, AFI and a whole roster of up and comers and local heroes found on the now defunct Lookout label. If these days were those, and there was still the same demand for straight ahead, melodic punk rock, then Livermore, California’s Hear The Sirens would already be huge.
On their new album “Renegade”, stylistically, Hear The Sirens aren’t a million miles away from what bands like No Trigger have been doing with the melodic sensibilities of Alkaline Trio or No Use For A Name (RIP Tony) and the aggressive bite of Off With Their Heads or Hot Water Music (welcome back, boys). It’s the kind of combination that has made the Descendents such a beloved institution all these years and makes for a pretty tasty cocktail indeed, the taste filled out with a strong shot of 1990’s era Green Day (we miss you). In fact, the first track on “Renegade” sounds like it would fit right at home snuggled in amongst the tracks on 1995’s “Insomniac”, before Scott Goodrich’s snotty vocals barrel the song headfirst into a melodic punk storm complete with an amazing use of backing vocals, perfectly timed pauses and blood spiking use of the band hitting the breaks on their instruments to yell ‘hey’ like it’s an early Pennywise album.
“DOA” is an aggressive, catchy song about young punks in love and, what else, broken hearts. It’s a toe tapper and the kind of song that you know as soon as you hear it will come to be a favorite at live shows.
The next few songs are going to sound like you’ve heard them before, probably because, in some regards, you have. Skate punk isn’t known for its diversity and the cold truth is that, with a few exceptions, many of the bands are only distinguishable by their lead singer. I don’t personally fault Hear The Sirens for this, if you’re going to choose to listen to a subgenre with as little room for invention as skate punk, you don’t get down on one band for sounding like another. All you ask is that the band write good songs and play them well and in those regards, Hear The Sirens kills it.
“Reason To Run” has one of the catchiest and most well written hooks on the whole album running through it. Musically, it even stands out from the rest of the songs on the record before the song “Figure It Out” returns firmly to Green Day territory, specifically the bass line from “Panic Song” and the guitar part from “Bob’s Uvula Who?”, also from “Insomniac”. Whether this was intentional or not doesn’t really matter, as it fits with the flavor of the song and sounds great.
A couple songs later, “Young Hearts” slows the tempo down a bit while Scott laments about misfit kids finding and losing love. It’s not like it’s a power ballad or anything but it is noticeably slower than the rest of the album. Some people will dig the breather, others will undoubtedly skip the track to get back to the freight train that is “Watch The World Burn” and the album closer, the aptly titled “Goodbye My Love”.
“Renegade” is a record that is born of its surroundings. An East Bay melodic punk record the likes of which many trailblazing East Bay punk bands have or are drifting ever further away from. In some ways it sounds like a throwback record, the band members paying tribute to the music that they grew up on. In others, these types of straight up snotty melodic punk records are popping up less and less often, and in that regard “Renegade” is a refreshing blast of tight, well written and well played punk rock about those age old topics punks have been singing about since 1976: Being in love and then being broken hearted and being pissed off about it. Some things just never get old.