Handheld – Handheld
Record Label: Year of the Sun Records
Release Date: February 26, 2008
You probably stumbled upon this site with varying levels of apprehension. You weren’t sure if you would find any music that didn’t clash heavily with your New Balance shoes and Pro Cuts ‘do. However, after your dial-up finally loaded the news page, all fears were probably put to rest. You saw posts about Christina Aguilera’s boobs and interviews with Hanson. You breathed easy. Well, if there’s anyone still out there looking for punk rock, I have a nice treat for you. And if you can’t take all that yelling and politicking, don’t run away just yet. Handheld are more than capable of bridging the yuppie/punk gap. There’s just enough pitch in Andy Dietrich’s voice. Craig Retzler’s quick riffage embraces a tolerable amount of melody. Handheld won’t throw you into the deep end while you wonder how much water your hemp necklace can hold. “Countless Hours,” for example, balances both forces wonderfully well. The chorus is so catchy, but the furious drumming will have you dumpster diving with delight. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Handheld is a band for you.
Still, easy listening this is not. It would be unfair to call this band pop-punk or any other muddled genre configuration. The music is fast and angry and gravelly, yet it’s fun and memorable and smart. This review is full of contradictions. This review is not full of contradictions. “Sharp Point” opens furiously with rapid-fire lyrics and rowdy gang shouting. Dietrich says, “What you see is what you get.” He might have been talking about something political (who can even tell?!), but I’ll use it to describe the music. This song is a fair indication of what’s to come. Well, until you get to “Awaiting.” The song comes near the end of Handheld and immediately threw me for a loop with its acoustic guitar intro. Dietrich has a surprisingly strong (and low) singing voice. “Cool beans,” I thought, “I can’t wait for them to pummel me when I’m not expecting it.” Sadly, this never happens. The song never becomes rowdy. It’s just acoustic and it’s just ok. Thank goodness, the only punk thing about “Awaiting” is its length.
“More Than Receding” is one of the faster songs on the album. Pat Dietrich’s drumming hits a high point in precision and speed. There’s a line about Kevin Eubanks, Vin Diesel and Dr. Evil, so despite the song being pretty indiscernible due to its tempo, I dig it. “Incarcerated” begins with a disjointed bass solo and cymbal crashes. It’s the longest song, but the usage of interweaving harmonies and gang vocals are a fresh addition. Each time things get too simplistic, Handheld throw in an adjusted riff or melody. Makes everything seem less redundant, which tends to happen fairly easily on an album with 16 like-minded songs.
This band may not be for everybody. And yeah, it might be sorta average, but I’ll take that over “reminds me of Mel Gibson drunk” any day. “Countless Hours” and equally-melodic “Push The Trend” are going on every mixtape I make for the next few months. I make like six different ones a day, so that’s saying something. My mom has been itching to branch out past Bad Religion and Belvedere, so it works out for everybody.
Recommended If You Like: Belvedere, Bad Religion, brick houses, The New York Dynamite, bediddling your bedaddle!