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Set Your Goals - Burning At Both Ends Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7.5
Musicianship 7.25
Lyrics 8.5
Production 5.5
Creativity 7
Lasting Value 7.5
Reviewer Tilt 8
Final Verdict: 73%
Member Ratings
Vocals 6.42
Musicianship 6.56
Lyrics 6.19
Production 5.72
Creativity 5.39
Lasting Value 5.31
Reviewer Tilt 6.92
Average: 61%
Inside AP.net

Set Your Goals - Burning At Both Ends

Reviewed by: Aziraphale (07/11/11)
Set Your Goals - Burning At Both Ends
Record Label: Epitaph
Release Date: June 28, 2011

During the anticipatory months leading up to the release of Set Your Goals’ latest album, Burning At Both Ends, I came across a little article where vocalist Matt Wilson was asked to describe the album in three words. His ironically prophetic response was “nothing to prove.” Fast forward to late June, and I’ve read a good deal of desperate discussion from fans on the end product; mostly how it has disappointed their expectations. Meanwhile, other popular internet music hubs have given the record rave reviews. An interesting juxtaposition, I set out to debunk this mystery for myself, as it was difficult for me to imagine a band like Set Your Goals delivering anything short of a breakthrough. My findings revealed some interesting things, but most importantly, it appears that Set Your Goals has fallen victim to a lack of vision for their latest release.

Opener “Cure For Apathy” quickly displays some of the key shortcomings of the Burning At Both Ends. Saving several paragraphs worth of musical analysis for one song, there is absolutely nothing to get excited about on a track like this. Guitars are unimaginative, vocal delivery is flat and the rhythm section hides, embarrassed behind the whole mix. Disheartening, but if there’s one good thing about putting the worst track of the album out front, it at least means that everything that follows will have commendable qualities hidden somewhere.

After “Cure for Apathy” deflates fan expectations, the tables are turned as “Start the Reactor” comes out swinging in true Set Your Goals style. Instantly, the band fans love appears to have returned with emotion powering the melodies, driving rhythm and forceful gang vocals. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of the record, the breakdown-bridge of this track is sure to get listeners’ blood pumping with every spin, featuring one of the biggest vocal deliveries of the band’s career.

Things continue to improve with “Certain,” a fast-paced and balanced number boasting the best hook of the disc. Lyrically strong, most of the deadness of the instrumentation from the opening track is forgotten. Accompanying are well-executed whoa-ohs in the background. “Happy New Year” follows driven by another excellently crafted hook. If there’s one thing that has been established at this point on the record, it’s that the guys have mastered their melodic offerings, embracing and succeeding at more blatantly sing-able choruses, without sacrificing the writing.

Putting further emphasis on the pop portion of pop punk, “London Heathrow” achieves in pushing the record on with undeniably fun verse-chorus progressions. The simplified song structures are well masked by SYG’s signature vocal tradeoffs and genre-defining lyrical offerings. Although the record is quite fun through the fifth track, listeners will begin to become increasingly aware of serious shortcomings in the production and mixing at this point. While it’s sometimes disguised by strong melodic offerings and solid arrangement, ultimately the record has yet to stop feeling like a collection of promising demos.

“Trenches,” while lyrically poignant, ends up being forgettable due to lackluster instrumentation. These shortcomings are further intensified by the bland production, and while I appreciate Set Your Goals’ treatment of the classic pop-punk love ballad, I’m convinced “The Last American Virgin” would be one of the better songs in the band’s collection with a more balanced mixing treatment.

Taking a step back into their more aggressive days, “Exit Summer” is a shot of adrenaline in the vein of This Will Be The Death Of Us. But by ninth track “Unconditional,” one of the most baffling and outright dumb production decisions of the record, becomes uncomfortably obvious – drummer Mikey Ambrose is relegated to the back of the mix on every track. His work on “Unconditional” is nothing short of furious, but not capitalized on.

After the politically charged and intense nature of their previous release, “Product Of The 80’s” represents an awesome step back from the typical Set Your Goals material. Some may knock the track for it’s carefree lyrical content and extreme catchiness, but to me it serves as the perfect way for the band to have some fun with their music, and almost assuredly with their fans at live shows. The song will no doubt be hit-or-miss among casual fans, but to me it seems like a respectable way for a band to experiment with a New Found Glory-esque, straight up pop sound.

The album closes with a succession of tracks that offers ups and downs, the biggest highlight being Comeback Kid Andrew Neufield lending his electrifying vocals to “Illuminated Youth,” making the track stick a lot more than “Raphael” or “Not as Bad.”

At its close, Burning At Both Ends features a lot of quality and a lot of shortcomings, something listeners are unaccustomed to from this group of musicians. While there are a number of tracks here that could be top-notch Set Your Goals barnburners, any real success they give the record gets cancelled out by the straight up snooze-worthy production. The guitars aren’t that less creative on the record when compared to previous work, but somehow they end up losing that bite and edge they gave the songs on This Will Be The Death Of Us. And while the melodies are the best they’ve ever been from the band on most tracks, a little too much pop experimentation causes them to fall flat on one too many tracks. The raw energy that is Mikey Ambrose’s drumming is totally forgotten in the mix. These are the shortcomings that a decent producer should have recognized, and I can’t help but blame the band for not noticing them either.

Don’t get me wrong; despite a lot of scathing press from fans, I definitely enjoy this release. The impact this record will have on the band’s live show will no doubt be a positive one, but only if the guys have what it takes to truly own some of the better tracks on stage. Matt Wilson may have thought that the band had “nothing to prove” going into the studio, but the band undoubtedly now has created the need to prove to fans that they’re not content with releasing a flawed record. Early reviews seemed too hasty to bash or blindly praise a record that has a lot to offer, but fails to deliver. Here’s to hoping the band uses the experience from this album to blow our expectations away in the future.

Recommended If You Like:Set Your Goals if they were a little confused on what exactly to do with this record

myspace.com/setyourgoals
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 31
03:30 PM on 07/17/11
#2
cowlord
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Pretty good review. I'd agree.
03:42 PM on 07/17/11
#3
yayitsjoe
An American Workplace.
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the riyl made me laugh.
03:52 PM on 07/17/11
#4
cbronder1
Life Is Not A Waiting Room
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this is a more fair review than the last one
04:05 PM on 07/17/11
#5
ThisIsNotDan
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I agree with the general sentiment of the review, there's 6 awesome songs and the rest could've been a lot better, mostly due to lame production and regulating the drums so far back in the mix.

one thing that kinda bothered me about this review is that parts are hard to read because it looks like you went a little "thesaurus-crazy" and tried to fit as many big words in as possible. also no way in hell is "Cure For Apathy" the worst track on here. overall, good review though!
04:18 PM on 07/17/11
#6
snowboarderkid
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Nice review
04:26 PM on 07/17/11
#7
jonayy
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why is that product of the 80's not reviewed? such a bad song, but i wanted to see what everyone else though.
04:50 PM on 07/17/11
#8
Aziraphale
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I agree with the general sentiment of the review, there's 6 awesome songs and the rest could've been a lot better, mostly due to lame production and regulating the drums so far back in the mix.

one thing that kinda bothered me about this review is that parts are hard to read because it looks like you went a little "thesaurus-crazy" and tried to fit as many big words in as possible. also no way in hell is "Cure For Apathy" the worst track on here. overall, good review though!

I really don't see any thesaurus-crazy portions, but if you can give me some examples I may take that into account.
04:51 PM on 07/17/11
#9
Aziraphale
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why is that product of the 80's not reviewed? such a bad song, but i wanted to see what everyone else though.
What the hell - I totally had a paragraph on this song when I submitted this review. I'll put this section back in. Thanks for pointing it out, I probably never would have noticed if nobody had mentioned it.
05:05 PM on 07/17/11
CBKRP
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I can't believe Im still waiting for this CD in the mail, Ive read so much about this record I feel like Ive already heard the thing ten times....
05:23 PM on 07/17/11
cococrisp20
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pretty good review but I really think this is a very solid album, and a great fun summer pop punk record that's catchy as fuck
05:24 PM on 07/17/11
TwelveTribes230
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I actually liked this. I wasn't sure what to think after listening to clips and reading reviews, but its a fun summer album. Nothing great but just something to put on during those hot summer days/nights.
06:15 PM on 07/17/11
Mattylikesfilms
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While this is for sure the bad apple of the band's discography, I like the album. I hate "product of the 80's" plus the choruses of "Unconditional" and "Raphael" are immature and cringe worthy. Those choruses litterally kill the song for me.

For the most part; "London Heathrow", "Trenches", "The Last American Virgin", "Illuminated Youth", and my favorite track- "Not as Bad" are all solid.

The album is a grower and I too hope their next outing is a lot better.
06:39 PM on 07/17/11
Scholar
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I'm kind of confused at what you're talking about with the mixing and production in general, but I think the review is pretty spot on. It has in fact grown on me, despite the seemingly phoned in production value. But I think that usually happens with Brian M's recordings. I wonder if he mixed these, because he I believe he engineered and produced Thrice, but they were mixed/mastered out of salad days, which would explain the difference in sonic quality.
06:56 PM on 07/17/11
johnnyferris
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I agree with the production. It definitely weakens the record. "Happy New Year" is my favorite song.
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