Scholar – Choose Adventure
Record Label: self-released
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Vocalist changes are always difficult for a band. There’s a lot for the new guy to live up to. And then there’s the question of how the band’s style will be affected. In Scholar’s case, there’d be even more pressure, as three songs from their self-titled EP were re-recorded for Choose Adventure with new vocalist Jon La Lopa.
How does La Lopa fare as a vocalist in comparison to Steven Blaqart? Blaqart had one of the more unique voices in the genre, so it’s hard to follow that up. Nonetheless, La Lopa fits in perfectly. Of the two, his voice certainly seems more appropriate for pop-punk. He sounds totally in his element here, even on songs like “The Rift” and the opening “Locke Syndrome,” which he did not initially write, making them his own.
Musically, the band’s as tight as ever. “No, Yes… No” is a classic-sounding pop-punk track, bringing to mind bands like Rufio or Fenix TX, while “I Wish I Knew How to Quit You” features the most enticing hook the band’s ever penned. That said, there are a fair bit of unexpected moments on Choose Adventure as well. “I Wish” has a fast key-laden bridge with vocals straight off Enema of the State. “Run Home, Jack” ends with a theatrical two-minute outro of gang vocals and rapid-fire riffs from La Lopa and James Cilano. It also includes vocals from Darkhorse’s Ian McLean, which only add to the cinematic effect. There’s even a time change in the first thirty seconds of “Fray.” (Maybe Scholar started listening to Gatsbys?) Unfortunately, that’s not pulled off so well, and La Lopa drags out the word “pain” a little too long, making it sound a bit awkward. All in all, it’s a pop-punk record, and it’s got everything you expect.
Except for the lyrics. That’s something refreshing about the album – the same tired themes aren’t replayed here. There’re no lines about hating hometowns, and there are very few songs about relationships. Instead, Scholar say things like, “Just do your best to fly, kid/ live your life and strive/ you’re not alone/ just know that you will find a home,” on the aptly named “Do Your Best to Fly, Kid,” and “You can’t break my pride/ you can’t touch the soul inside me/ with your worldly lies” on the newly rerecorded (but still horribly-titled) “It’d Be Easier to Believe You (If Your Pants Weren’t on Fire).” This song in particular sounds better here – everything sounds bigger than it did on the EP, and it fits the song well.
Choose Adventure is going to be off a lot of people’s radars, likely, because there’s no label backing them up and no huge single to propel them. But doubtlessly everyone who does hear it will be enamored. I am. Hopefully, on reading this, you will be too.