Counterpunch - Dying to Exonerate the World
Record Label: Go-Kart
Release Date: May 31st, 2011
Hailing from Chicago, this quartet’s sophomore full-length has a lot going for it. These 13 songs embody all that is good in the skatepunk/melodic hardcore/pop punk/whatever genre: stunning vocal interplay delivering the powerful lyrics; intricate guitar work backed up by a talented rhythm section, and hey, the cover art’s pretty nice too.
Yeah, this album is indeed pretty darn good. From the opener “Heroes & Ghosts” with its infectious chorus, to the ballad-ish “So Long” that emotionally concludes the record, there is a lot to savour. Lyrically, this band hits the spot almost every time, whether they’re focusing on political strife or personal strife. “A Raven’s Curse” is insightfully delivered, with the observation “You can save the world a million times, but get credit for the fall.” “When the Curtains Close” is possibly the pinnacle of the album, with its downcast chorus conveyed in a sonically uplifting manner. It precedes "We Believe", a fast and hard rocking number with yet another top-notch chorus, much in the same vein as many of the songs on Counterpunch's eponymous debut album.
Ahh, and now we come to the contentious issue. The major drawback to Counterpunch’s eponymous debut album was the interestingly titled "Al Qaeda Hijacked My Mom's Poussoir", which was quite frankly terrible lyrically. On Dying to Exonerate the World, looking at the lyrics to “And Everybody’s Right”, you could be forgiven for thinking that the band had once more strayed too far into immaturity. Hell, the chorus uses the word “asshole” seven times. That’s a septet of assholes, right there. But in fact, the song is delivered passionately and seriously, and it works. The unexpected trombone and trumpet duet definitely plays a part in pulling this song off.
Yes, diversity is found aplenty on this album. From the pop-punk anthem “Constraints and Anchors” to the aggressive and melodramatic “A Raven’s Curse”, Counterpunch have managed to reinvigorate the skatepunk/melodic-hardcore/pop-punk/whatever genre with Dying to Exonerate the World. Sure, at 50 minutes the album is on the long side, and a couple of the tracks don’t necessitate lasting over 4 minutes, such as "Parasites" and "March of the Paper Tiger". However, “High Tide for Internal Strife” wholly justifies its 4 minute running time though; the vocal work at the climax is fantastic.
At this point, I was going to mention how amazing the guitar work is in "High Tide for Internal Strife". But then I remembered, the guitar work is amazing in every song. So I should probably point out the parts where the bass really shines. But that's every song too. And the drums... ahh, the drums. So on the musicianship front, clearly Counterpunch are amongst the leaders of the genre.
Any other criticisms, besides the slightly debatable running time? Well, “Sweet and Sour” maybe veers too close to the sweet side, especially in the chorus. “Scenester Kids” is a short song added to the end of "Parasites" that condemns scene kids but feels tacked on and unnecessary. Indubitably though, this is a darn good album. Darn darn darn good.
Is this a re-release or something? Because it was released last year in Japan (in February) and in Europe (October/November) under the name "Heroes & Ghosts". Band and songs are good but the album is just too long. You can also listen to the entire record at their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/counterpunchrok
Yeah, this album is the same as "Heroes & Ghosts", except for different album art and the different name (obviously). The Go-Kart Records release is for a US audience, I think. Probably shoulda mentioned that in the review, my bad!