Pop-punk has been dying a slow death ever since the likes of Paramore took it, fluffed it up, and handed it off to an army of Disney Channel stars. But it turns out there may still be life in the genre. Fat Wreck Chords is a big part of that, with Lagwagon and NOFX still putting out worthwhile records. On Collapser, label newcomers Banner Pilot show themselves as a throwback to early-'90s punk in the best ways, with infectious choruses and growling vocals mixed with walls of power-chord fury.
And sure, it would be easy to compare this Minnesota band to fellow Midwesterners Jawbreaker, particularly with the raspy shout of vocalist Nick Johnson and the emotive, city-at-night lyrics. But Banner Pilot's charging sound owes more to the likes of New Jersey's Lifetime. Like those guys, the members of Banner Pilot do not ignore the "pop" in pop-punk; they take that melodic streak and drag it through the gutter. Songs like "Central Standard" and "Northern Skyline" are surging with energy while still being hum-in-the-shower catchy. And the slower thud of tracks like "Starting at an End" manage that slow breakdown (the one lesser bands rode all the way to mediocre major-label careers) without losing Collapser's volatile drive.
The album may still sound a little too similar, but when you're grinding out a handful of power chords, that a road pretty hard to avoid, and Banner Pilot travels it without hesitation, keeping us drawn in with surprisingly affecting lines, like the shouted refrain, "How'd another year turn out so bad?" It's a simple line, but placed perfectly. And it's these small successes that make Collapser a glint of hope for pop-punkers, in a time where those seem rare.
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