You Vandal - Fuck Yeah EP
Record Label: self-released
Release Date: August 23, 2013
Fully enjoyable emotional pop-punk bands – while the creature once ruled the earth, there seem to be fewer left each year. As a fan, most of my time is now spent excavating the scene, with many new discoveries quickly discarded as remnants of a greater past. It has become a shrewd business of concessions; your lyrics suck? Well, I’ve certainly heard worse this week, and at least your hooks are decent. Welcome to my iPod, where I’ll probably skip you in favor of your superior ancestors.
Every so often, this weary quest can yield something surprising. Something really, actually good. But, You Vandal? Why would I not skip this band on sheer principle? Surely no band could live up to such a name; this must be a cheap trick to attract listeners who still search for anything resembling Through Being Cool’s timeless angst, right? Wrong. You see, You Vandal have no such agendas. They chose the name because its album’s greatness was the easiest thing to agree on when they were searching for a name. That’s it. Naïve? Yes. Perfectly, wonderfully naïve; so was Saves The Day in 1999, and probably too few bands have been since.
I first heard Gainesville, FL’s You Vandal in 2010 around the time of their first and only full-length, the stellar Stories You Can’t Share. My skepticism was abolished before lead singer Eric Cannon finished sharing his dream at the end of Screwdriver (go listen to it – you’ll see). I recognized something special then and have silently pulled for the band since. Even so, I was not prepared for Fuck Yeah. This, their third and best EP since Stories You Can’t Share, came unannounced – it was actually spam from Bandcamp which notified me of the recent upload. That was over a week ago. I’ve listened to little else since.
Fuck Yeah is 4 compact tracks which carefully document the worst of relationship burns, desperate pleas, regret and loathing. Of course, as with the best examples in the scene, it will take a keen ear to pick up on those things – pay less attention and all you’ll hear is a wave of tight melodies and sing-a-long hooks that demand your participation.
The first track, "Doma Arigato", opens with its English translation, “Thank you very much,” continuing “… for two whole years of chances to prove I’m not programmed to romance you” to set the EP’s tone of regret, insecurity, loss, and one too many months of biting the tongue. "Please God Kill Me" follows with the poppiest of the 4, relating the hot rush of jealousy from discovering a new interest… then her unworthy other. Watch out for this one’s chorus which puts you squarely on Cannon's side as he begs, “please – don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”
The EP’s last half is a snarly, spiteful, one-two punch of pop-punk perfection. "Shoot The Messenger" begins with all guitars, all amps and all cylinders. It only stops briefly to catch a breath so that Cannon can deliver its withering punch line – “Where did your spine go?”, which repeats and passes off into a chaotic succession of verse, call-response, and throat-shredding overlays. It’s easy to miss another of Cannon’s throws below the belt, but you won’t want to: “now, I can hardly wait for you to watch me decimate your thoughts of beach-side surf-romance.” Ouch.
"Windy City Blues." What can I say? That every classic collection of songs has a standard bearer? Or a closer that sums up everything you just heard with profound impact? It certainly does that, but not without telling its own story. If you’ve ever known the fleeting joy of being distracted from a shitty break-up, just to have it hit two-fold when the party ends - this is that, but with the best outro this side of "Rocks Tonic." Also, the careful pause between “home’s not home, but a constant reminder of a love now lost and the new boy inside her…” and “heart” is almost worth the $4 price of admission.
I’ll continue my excavations, now with more hope for what I might find. Unpretentious bands with competent lyricists are still out there, and they’re still writing great hooks. As for the chances a band named You Vandal might actually live up to the name? It’s like another excavator, Indiana Jones, once learned with equal humility: “X marks the spot.”