Broadway Calls - Comfort/Distraction
Record Label: No Sleep
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2013
Pop-punk has long laid dormant in the Pacific Northwest outside of last bastion MxPx, but some reinforcement has arrived. Broadway Calls follows up their solid 2009 release Good Views, Bad News with Comfort/Distraction, the band's first album on No Sleep's increasingly impressive roster. Broadway Calls has put together 11 tracks of hyper-focused pop-punk jams, borrowing elements from many of their predecessors, but never sounding quite like any of them. Each song is distinctly Broadway Calls and nobody else, a feat that grows more and more difficult each year in a genre that is often watered down by bands re-hashing the same things over and over. There's great variation in tempo throughout Comfort/Distraction but rarely a loss of momentum, thanks to good sequencing and a snotty vocal aggression that never subsides. All of this is encased in phenomenal production by Bill Stevenson, a veritable god in the genre. Stevenson has produced some of the greatest punk albums in the past decade, including Propaghandi's Supporting Caste, No Trigger's Canyoneer, and Comeback Kid's Wake the Dead. All are incredible sounding records, and Comfort/Distraction fits right into this bunch.
There's a very thin line in pop-punk between influence and being derivative, and Broadway Calls stays on the side of homage. There's unmistakable hints of all kinds of bands in there, the bouncing bass lines of the Descendents in "Open Letter," the distinctive progressions of Green Day in "Wildly Swinging," and many others - but it is almost always familiar, and never blatant. That's a sign of outstanding song writing in a genre where it is nearly impossible to be completely original, but Broadway Calls manages it. Even though Broadway Calls is best when at breakneck pace ("Life is Rhythm"), mid-tempo jams like "Surrounded By Ghosts" and the slower "Lucky Lighter" still have great composition. All the more impressive is the amount of depth Comfort/Distraction manages to get from this trio, another hat tip not only to the band, but to Bill Stevenson, for making relatively simplistic songs sound punchy and huge at the same time. Vocalist Ty Vaughn sounds better than ever, with a defiantly snotty delivery that cuts through clearly and carries songs that may otherwise have fallen flat, such as "Minus One." Even on the album's biggest misstep ("Zombie World") his presence is undeniable, commanding. There's certainly something redeeming about most songs on Comfort/Distraction.
That being said, Comfort/Distraction is not a perfect record, and despite the overall excellence there are a few tracks that fall flat. "Zombie World" struggles with transitions and has an awkwardly obvious feel to it, and the dry "I'll Be There" and "Stealing Sailboats" get lost towards the end. Fortunately, the low points are minimal, and there are several truly outstanding tracks. "Life is Rhythm" is phenomenal, and if Broadway Calls ever decided to release an album full of nothing but ripping blasts like this, it would likely sit right in my favorite punk records in recent years. Incredible energy, perfect transitions, and perfect backing vocals - all in balance. "Open Letter" is another standout that will surely wedge itself in minds for a long time with the perfect amount of attitude. "A comfort, a distraction, a fuck is all I have to give." I've never been much for lyrics when it comes to this genre, but Broadway Calls gives 'tude and snot in the right dosage. You can't help but wonder how good this band could actually be if they cranked up the tempo more frequently, because they are surely at their best when they let it rip.
Comfort/Distraction is a record for pop-punk purists. Despite clocking in at 11 songs, it calls back to a mid-90's era of 17 track records, ones where you know songs by track number, their place in sequencing, and not just song titles. Records where you start humming the intro of the next track before it begins. It's a record of favorites, but not one where you feel compelled to skip songs to get to them. You wait for your favorites and enjoy the ride, not just the peaks but the valleys as well. Each song has something unique to offer. Broadway Calls has characteristics that makes them distinct. In a genre like this, that's no small task. All of this is packaged together expertly by Bill Stevenson, who has made a truly phenomenal sounding record. Don't miss the chance to listen to what will surely be one of the strongest releases from the pop-punk world in 2013.
Love this band and album! It didn't really hit me like the other releases at first, but it's really grown on me in the last week. I disagree with your thoughts on "I'll Be There" and "Stealing Sailboats". I actually think those are two of the stronger tracks on the album along with "Wildly Swinging", "Open Letter" and "Lucky Lighter". I'm hoping they will play more than just "Lucky Lighter" when I see them at the hometown record release show on Monday, I want to hear all of this album live badly.
Every release has pretty much been significantly better than the previous one, and while this doesn't take nearly as big a step, it's definitely an improvement on Good Views all the same. A little top-heavy, but hey, I will take this style of pop-punk any day over the other stuff strangely blowing up bigger.