The Playing Favorites | I Remember When I Was Pretty (Suburban Home)

cd_playing-faves.jpgFinally, a pop-punk band who knows how to stir things up.




One of the biggest frustrations of being a pop-punk fan is what I like to call the "one song syndrome": bands that manage to write one really good song and then fill the rest of their record with ten or so pale copies that sound exactly like that one song. Now, there are bands that can get away with simply rewriting the same song over and over again (AC/DC, for example), but when it comes to cookie-cutter three-chord punk songs, one’s tolerance for repetition isn’t nearly as forgiving. The Playing Favorites open their debut I Remember When I Was Pretty with "Leaving Town," an up-tempo emo rocker that’s solid and catchy but sounds like a lot of other first tracks from a lot of other up-tempo emo rock bands. But when the second track "Everyone Else in the World" kicks in as a rollicking power-pop tune that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Foo Fighters record, it’s cause to celebrate. Finally, a pop-punk band who knows how to stir things up.

A supergroup of sorts packed with veterans of the Santa Barbara, Calif., punk scene, it’s little wonder that The Playing Favorites display such skill. The marquee players are Joey Cape, singer/guitarist for Lagwagon and guitarist for punk rock cover band jokesters Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and Marko DeSantis, guitarist for Sugarcult and sometime member of Nerf Herder and the Ataris, among others. Cape and DeSantis, who previously collaborated in the side project Bad Astronaut, share singing and songwriting duties with guitarists Tim Cullen (a solo artist and former singer/guitarist for Summercamp) and Luke Tierney (of the Penfifteen Club). Rounding out the lineup is drummer Mick Flowers, a member of the Lapdancers who previously worked with Cullen and DeSantis in yet another side project, Popsicko.

With so much camaraderie already established among the band members, there’s very little learning curve here. Unlike a lot of side projects, I Remember When I Was Pretty doesn’t feel like something tossed off during a five-day break between bigger projects (even though that is exactly what it is). The song’s are rock solid, confident, and, most importantly, catchy as all hell. Despite boasting four songwriters, the songs hang together remarkably well, offering variety not only between songwriters but between songs by the same songwriter. Cullen, for example, wrote that aforementioned emo rocker "Leaving Town," but his other contributions are "Stay," a song that blends punk rock energy with the sensibilities of 1950s doo-wop, and "Citizen’s Band," the emotionally heavy acoustic album closer. DeSantis’ first track is "Futuring," a whisper quiet number that rides acoustic guitars and some light strings that works as a brief minute-and-a-half interlude, but his other contribution is the rip-roarin’ Replacements-style rocker "Whole Lotta Nothin’." Tierney offers up Face to Face-ish sped-up punk on "Good Years," but then gives a bit of an alt-country edge to the absolutely fantastic "Drug Hugger," where he juxtaposes being in love with being an addict in a neat lyrical twist ("I don’t mind if I get strung out/ If she picks me up when I’m down/ I need someone to love and I think I might need a drug/ I can put my arms around"). Cape counters "Everyone Else in the World" with the gorgeous near-twee "Waiting" and "Indigenous," a slightly droning sort of cousin to Death Cab for Cutie’s "Soul Meets Body."

The Playing Favorites haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel here, but what they have delivered is a fantastically diverse and likeable album that, at an economical 46 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome for even one second. Other bands should be so lucky. A- | Jason Green

RIYL: Lagwagon, Sugarcult

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