Jade Monkey – Smile


Artist

Album

Smile

Label

N/A

Year

2010

Genre

For Fans Of

All Time Low, Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory

Summary

Putting the pop back into pop punk

Rating

85 / 100

When it comes to hardcore and metal Australia seems to be disproportionately represented on the world stage. Parkway Drive and The Amity Affliction dominate charts and lineups across the globe, while names like Deez Nuts, Miles Away or 50 Lions are commonplace on the lineups of impressive European or US tours. Considering the popularity and mainstream success of pop punk internationally (especially here), it’s strange that Australia seems relatively lacking in this department. Enter Jade Monkey, a youthful four-piece from Sydney who offer a catchy Aussie spin on the genre.

Recorded between Sydney’s Freefall Studios and Monstereo, their seven song debut “Smile” is clearly not big budget, but the production quality is nonetheless impressive and professional. Buying into neither the 90s pop punk / emo revival of late nor the pop-mosh sound that has come into vogue in the past year or two, Jade Monkey opt for a more conventional and polished pop punk sound. The melodies are catchy, the hooks infectious and the vocals upbeat and positive. Frontman Dale Randolph’s voice exemplifies the pop aspect of this band’s sound, his singing at times conveying an almost crooner-esque charisma. The lyrical content is pretty staple pop punk stuff: essentially 95% about girls. But by comparison to US bands like All Time Low (who are clearly a major influence on this outfit’s sound) the lyrics come across as more genuine, heartfelt and intelligent.

The opening riff of “I’m Ready” is a hard-hitting punk rock riff which leads into a soaring chorus of resonant singing and playful guitar musings. The vocal harmonies later in the song set the tone for the rest of the EP, which is laced with well-placed stylish backup singing. The riff of the title track “Smile” is catchy as anything, opening with soaring melodic punk guitars that will be stuck in your head for weeks. Telling the story of the typical messed up chick, the catchy vocals confidently match the solid riffage. “Every Word” opens with some acoustic strumming and dreamy electric guitar which is reminiscent of music from an 80s Miami cop show or something. This track again provides a set of earnest lyrics and another greatly-crafted catchy chorus. The combination of palm-muting and high-pitched lead guitar on the fourth track “Dreamers and Schemers” is great.

The chorus of the “The Offer” uplifting boasts horns and trumpets, reflecting the band’s ska punk roots. Unlike ska punk (which I despise) it simply adds another catchy element to an already infectious tune. “The Pirate Song” doesn’t have much to do with pirates, but is pretty cool too. Again showing this band’s penchant for combining acoustic riffs and electric guitar bravado, this song combines the best elements Jade Monkey has to offer. What’s more the gang vocal chant at the end of this track is fucking epic, strangely sounding a bit like something you might expect from Comeback Kid or maybe even a recent Miles Away track. The closer “I’m Gone” is probably my least preferred track, featuring emotive singing, acoustic strumming and some sporadic string parts. Perhaps the problem with this song is not the song itself, which is well-written, but the placement on the EP. Full of energy, the release ends on a slower note which arguably in light of the previous tracks is somewhat anti-climactic.

Conclusion

“Smile” is definitely a promising offering from a relatively unknown young band. Jade Monkey display a talent for writing solid, catchy pop punk tunes which avoid recycling too many of the tired clichés of said genre. There’s many a hook on this record to have you humming for months and if this is sign of things to come, then bring it on. An impressive debut effort, “Smile” will have you doing just that.

Tracklisting

1. I’m Ready
2. Smile
3. Every Word
4. Dreamers and Schemers
5. The Pirate Song
6. The Offer
7. I’m Gone

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