Red Scare might just be my favorite label, and while others have come and gone; or, alternatively rose to prominence and kept chugging under the radar, it’s easy to see why. Red Scare was the punk label that gave us the Lawrence Arms, Menzingers, Copyrights, Direct Hit!, Arms Aloft, MakeWar and many, many more. The way I see it, it’s all B.R.S. and A.R.S, the B.C. and A.D. of turn of the millennium punk. Before Red Scare, melodic punk meant double-time drums and skate rat intensity, the stuff you’d find on Epitaph and Fat Wreck—hardcore’s singing cousin. Red Scare gathered up bands who were picking at the other 90s punk—Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music, Radon, Avail, Crimpshrine. Punk rock has been melodic since the beginning, but it wasn’t until Red Scare that melodic punk (or beard punk, or orgcore, or whatever), became a codified part of our sonic landscape.
Which brings me to one of Red Scare’s latest offerings, a pop-punk band called Tightwire that I have seen almost zero buzz for. Which is, admittedly, really fucking weird. I mean, c’mon guys! This is Red Scare! They basically built the basement on this shit! Why isn’t everyone putting Tightwire on the proverbial chair and dancing it around the Jewish wedding like we did for Success? My theories run amok, and my data offers little. Six Feet Deep was released all the way back in October. Maybe it got lost in the Fest shuffle? Maybe October is just an awful month to release anything? My realest theory is that on first listen, listeners just weren’t that interested. A sad, bummer of a theory—but considering that was my first reaction, I think it holds the most weight.
Tightwire is a gooey, sticky peanut butter and honey sandwich of a pop-punk band that has hooks for days and a sense of humor as well. They belong to the Dillinger Four school of punk rock, in that their status as a band feels incidental at best. Throughout Six Feet Deep, there’s a very real feeling that maybe this band was never supposed to make it out of the garage, and we, the listeners, are just lucky and dumbfounded it happened at all. Because that’s the thing: Tightwire sounds like a catchy pop-punk band, the kind we’ve all heard ad nauseum—but after a couple listens, the hooks set in. I listened to the lyrics. I smiled, I sang along, and suddenly, I had favorite songs. A little while longer, and I had a favorite album. Another listen, and I needed to show it to people.
Tightwire’s lack of immediacy on first listen might be due to saturation of the genre (or a couple of well-loved juggernauts soaking up all the love). Deja vu is seldom welcome in music, and pop punk is a genre that wallows in it. Tightwire doesn’t exempt themselves from any wallowing, as I’d say Six Feet Deep is more rigidly traditional than other modern genre offerings like Direct Hit! and Hospital Job. There are chugging chords, sugary choruses, shimmering harmonies—and they’re propelled by drums, bass, and guitar. But the point is this: genre doesn’t make for good songs, songwriting does. And Tightwire has killer songwriting across the board.
“Draggin’ Me” opens the album with screeching atonal feedback, before galloping into its absurdly singable melody. “Told Ya” is probably my favorite of the tracks, a mid-album singalong targeted at the sort of ‘friend’ you can’t help but rubberneck as they go William Tecumseh Sherman on their own life. It has one of my favorite choruses of recent memory (“I don’t wanna say I fucking told you so, but I fucking told you so.”) and the lyrics imbue it with an irresistible smart-aleck energy. Listing favorite tracks from Six Feet Deep is an exercise in tedium, as there are thirteen tracks and all of them are pretty worthy of pontification, but if I allow myself one more, I’d like to shine a light on “Body Language” and it’s absolutely gorgeous melody—highlighting Tightwire’s harmonic prowess along the way.
Six Feet Deep is the best album I’ve heard no one talk about. Which is a shame, because although it doesn’t attempt to broaden the soundscape of pop-punk, it’s essentially a perfect, almost classical, execution of the genre. Tightwire are a deceptively competent group of musicians, and their debut stands to weather the storms of taste. Maybe not now, but someday, Six Feet Deep will be considered latter-day canon, rightly placed beside other contemporary classics.