Pop punkers Just Surrender return with their new album “Phoenix”, released through LAB Records. The New York quintet hit the studio with producer Lou Giordino (Taking Back Sunday, Goo Goo Dolls) and co-producer Ace Enders (The Early November). Just Surrender formed in Dover Plains, New York during 2003 straight from leaving high school; to date they have already sold over 40,000 albums from their previous independent releases. They have also been busy with live shows, playing the Vans Warped Tour as well as touring with bands such as The Starting Line, All Time Low and Taking back Sunday, and will be hitting the road in the UK with Framing Handley later in 2010.
Just Surrender’s sound is straight out of the pop punk playbook, heavily reminiscent of many that have come before then; All Time Low, New Found Glory, My Awesome Compilation to name but three. However, Just Surrender do have enough originality about them to stand out from the crowd and their new album “Phoenix” could be the record to launch them onto much bigger things.
The album kicks off with the now obligatory ‘Intro’ which in its own right is pretty decent, giving a hint of what is to come. ‘Through The Night’ begins the album proper, a rock intro and verse that is reminiscent of Aussie rockers Jet. The chorus is traditional sing-along pop punk, complete with the catchy hooks. The tempo increases with ‘Take Me Home’, with tradeoffs between the two vocalists, Jason Maffucci and Dan Simons. There are moments in the verse that sound like the lighter moments of Silverstein and the catchy sing-along chorus has heavy undertones of My Awesome Compilation.
‘Crazy’ takes a turn for the melancholic, a song of confusion and hope. Again the dual vocals work a treat, Maffucci’s higher tones perfectly contrast to the much rawer nature of Simons’ voice. The melancholic feel continues with ‘On my Own’, a much rockier track that initially has a Good Charlotte vibe about it. The quick tempo and jagged guitar riffs lend themselves to the much darker atmosphere and despite being much heavier, the hooks are still there. Maffucci’s considerable vocal talent shines, his distinctive voice breaking through the angst ridden track giving the sense that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. ‘Burning Up’ is a return to the pop punk stable. A much slower paced track that seems to be lacking the usual catchy hooks until the chorus comes in but even then it’s not a song-along one.
‘Stronger Now’ takes another turn, and heads back down route rock. A slower, heavier track laced with melancholy and anger, switching styles between early Further Seems Forever and Silverstein. ‘Lose Control’ maintains the heavier feel, complete with gang shouts in the chorus emphasising the heaviness. The guitar work stands out well in this track with Jolly Ubriaco‘s underlying lead melodies penetrating the distorted rhythm guitars of Dan Simons. ‘Better To Leave’ takes another leaf out of the Good Charlotte playbook. It’s a great pop rock song with a slower tempo the matches to down beat mood. The guitar work is again exceptional; in particular, Ubriaco’s melodic runs that charge relentlessly through the entire track!
Just Surrender break out the acoustic guitars and violins for ‘Carried Away’. There is a hint of Dashboard Confessional about this song, but that just may be the acoustic sound clouding the issue? Nonetheless it is still a pretty good track showing that they don’t have to rely on electric instruments to get their songs and message across. ‘Jukebox Memoirs’ discards the acoustic guitars and violins and delivers tried and tested pop punk right from the off. It sounds very familiar but then this genre tends to be that way. The album finishes with an acoustic version of ‘Burning Up’, it’s an interesting choice to do an acoustic version of, as it was one of the weaker tracks on the album. However, throw away the electrics and the backline and this song actually comes to life. Add in some violin and somehow this track turns into one of the highlights of the album!
This genre tends to produce an endless stream of clones churning out the same tracks time and again. Just Surrender are a little guilty of this too but they also have a lot of originality to offer. Maffucci and Simons’ vocals are distinctive and exceptional and Ubriaco’s lead guitars separate Just Surrender form the horde of clones.