A love letter to everything pop-punk's been & everything it hopefully will be.
Upon clicking play on ‘You Won’t Come Home’s opening track, ‘Stitch’, there was a brief and shot half-second wait before my eardrums nearly blew themselves apart. The EP begins with one almighty pop-punk bang and honestly, it never lets up from that first moment.
‘Stich’ sets the mood perfectly; ‘You Won’t Come Home’ is filled with the huge, bouncy pop-punk tunes that the staple acts of a few years ago used before the lines of new blood pop-rock acts started bleeding over into it. It’s punctuated by melodically bright and punchy guitar riffs with a fast and forward momentum from the rhythm section. “Hey Matty, didn’t you just describe pretty much all pop-punk?” Well yeah, I pretty much just did. But there’s something about ‘You Won’t Come Home’ that feels… fuller; that just feels better. The songs here feel far more real, deep and purposeful and I’m not talking about just the lyrical themes or emotions on offer either. The music itself feels anything but the paper thin efforts of some of Stuck Out’s local and international contemporaries.
‘Grin’ and ‘Fade Away’ away are hearty examples of this as they feel like songs that were fully fleshed out every single step of the way. Though there are a few riffs that might feel somewhat taken from three or so different The Story So Far songs, Stuck Out’s music here is just ultimately put together really fucking well. It ebbs and flows in its structure and never seems like it’s wasting a second of your time with needless bridges, build-ups or even solos.
Which is another great point and one I can actually talk about: save for the final track, these songs never even remotely overstay their welcome. The average song length falls just under three minutes and that's quite short for most bands around today. It takes a level of confidence and certainty to consistently keep your songs to that length and do it well. Every track here says everything it needs to say, progresses naturally and resolves itself all in their allotted times and goddamn it’s actually so appealing. (Man, this must be how it feels to date someone who actually knows where they want to go out to eat). ‘You Won’t Come Home’ as a result is a lesson in always leaving your audience wanting more in the best way rather than giving them far too much. For instance, ‘Weight’, even though it only lasts for a mere minute and a half, is a beautiful song that seamlessly transitions from the twinkly emo sounds of American Football over to the huge choruses from the likes of Neck Deep or State Champs.
The EP eventually culminates in the closer of ‘Linger’ which feels in part like it could belong on a Citizen or Basement record with its depressingly beautiful minor chords and reverb-soaked guitars that help to suck in and fully consume the listener. As the song builds and builds itself up with multilayered guitar parts and vocal harmonies, it dawns on you that this is the exact opposite of how most releases should go. The final track shouldn’t be this hauntingly heavy and dreary monolith; it should be some bright, catchy and danceable track in E-flat major, right? Well, for some bands, it can be and often times it is, but on ‘You Won’t Come Home’ it isn’t and I’m very thankful for that.
I think the thing that really draws me and many others into Stuck Out's music is their vocalist, Joshua Walker. His voice sits well below the usual nasally, high pitch that most pop-punk vocalists find themselves in an attempt to replicate the very bands they’re so obviously emulating. Walker seemingly owns his lower vocal register and makes it work no matter what he’s singing over.
Do you remember when Blink-182 weren't putting out shit like 'California'? Do you remember when The Wonder Years were dropping insanely good records like 'Suburbia' and 'The Greatest Generation' and the hype was insane? Do you remember when The Story So Far didn't beat their sound into the fucking ground over the span of three records? Do you remember when the scene felt so fresh and new? Hell, do you remember when pop-punk was actually good? Pepper Ridge Farm remembers, I myself remember, and Stuck Out clearly seem to remember as well.
Overall, slightly rough around the edges and grounded in reality is one of the best ways to describe this EP. It’s almost hard to explain but it really boils down to the idea that you really don’t need to reinvent the wheel every goddamn Tuesday; sometimes, you just gotta let it spin nicely on its axis.
'You Won't Come Home' is out now.