Noise By Numbers - Over Leavitt
Record Label: Jump Start Records
Release Date: August 2, 2011
In 2008, Dan Schafer (Screeching Weasel, The Methadones) and Jeff Dean (The Bomb), two accomplished musicians from the Chicago punk scene, decided to team up and write some songs together. Eventually recruiting Rick Uncapher and The Lawrence Arms’ Neil Hennessy on drums, the group Noise By Numbers released their Matt Allison-produced first album, Yeah, Whatever, to positive reviews. Hennessy later left the band to be replaced by Jimmy Lucido, and the band released Over Leavitt, a batch of songs that deliver a heaping dose of melody and familiarity. The latter is not an insult in the least; Schafer writes songs that recall the style of many great melodic punk bands, songs which will not vacate your ears for days.
Drawing from Chicago bands such as Naked Raygun and his own project, The Methadones, Schafer and company rock with an edge you would expect from members who have played in the Chicago punk scene. What makes this band stand apart, however, is the different flavors they add to their Chicago slice of pop-punk. Throughout the album, traces of East Bay pop-punk will catch your ear, as Schafer occasionally projects in a nasally fashion that at times brings Billie Joe Armstrong to mind. Also peppered throughout are savory post-punk toppings, with influences culled from Husker Du, The Replacements, and Dinosaur, Jr. Topping it all off is a straight-forward rock and roll sensibility that brings to mind Foo Fighters. Pardon the food references, but this is a delicious album.
The combination of all of these influences is evident in the energetic opener, “A Song For Emily.” Kicking off the album perfectly, the track wastes no time showing the listener just how catchy this band can be. However, as catchy as this tune is, it’s nothing compared to the next track, “Lost My Way.” “Lost My Way” showcases a chorus that will not leave your head, no matter how bad you may want it to (but really, why would you?). It’s the type of song that, had it been released in the 90s, would have fit nicely next to Gin Blossoms on rock radio. This track is a good representation of the album as a whole; thick riffs, driving drums, and a catchy-as-hell chorus. And of course, what self-respecting band from Chicago could leave out some classic “Whoah-oh’s?” They can be found on “Sara’s Reaching For The Sun” and one of the album’s stronger tracks, “Yes, You,” which features briskly stroked octaves and melodic guitar lines.
The band benefits from the fact that they aren’t afraid to implement slower tempos and more experimentation than some other bands in their genre. “Radiate” and “Disappointed” are two of the album’s most effective songs because of this fact. Both are also shining examples of just how good Schafer is at penning radio-ready choruses that in no way feel watered-down, while Dean offers guitar leads that drip with melancholy. In the midst of songs such as these, the band also shows they can pick up the pace, such as on the track “Yeah, Whatever,” whose brisk tempo is refreshing.
The band integrates the acoustic guitar into their sound to great effect on “Swarm of Flies” and the brilliant album closer, “Over Leavitt.” The latter is a love song to the healing power of music itself, as Schafer croons about “Turning the rain into song.” The lyrics on this song, and most of the album, are simple and direct, allowing for an instant impact on the listener.
This album was written by a group of guys who have cut their teeth in such bands as Screeching Weasel, The Queers, and The Methadones. It is evidently clear that when it comes to writing pop-punk songs, they know what they’re doing. Sure, they stick to a certain formula, but that’s no slight against them. They use a range of influences to great effect, and write catchy yet thoughtfully crafted songs in the process. If you’re looking for soaring vocals backed by an equally talented band, check out Noise By Numbers.