Five talented generation-Y-sters suck up the mainline and spew out a debut of regurgitated jingles of pop-punk serrated with poppy-nu-metal riffs and post-post-post-post-post definitions of hardcore. From First to Last’s debut, Dear Diary, My Teenage Angst Has A Body Count, should have a label on it warning anyone older than 21 to stay away.
Despite its title, there is barely any killing on the album — musically, lyrically or physically. I tried like hell to get Dear Diary to properly kill me. Five days alone in the headphones left my ears feeling like they were placed in the refrigerator.
Opener “The One-Armed Boxer vs. the Flying Guillotine” shows bold promises of an impending miracle. Why? Because Derrek Bloom is the best drummer that recorded in 2004. If the album just had him banging away like a crispy, frenetic madman, I would salivate continuously. Only 21, Mr. Bloom has grasped the rhythmic fuel of punk-hardcore-metal time signatures, and he twists them into a tightly compacted style that’s cool and charging. He’s about 15 years ahead of himself and least 20 years ahead of his band.
Not that the rest of From First to Last is bad. Matt Good and Travis Richter have mastered riffs that would gain them a following at Guitar Center. “Featuring Some of Your Favorite Words” has stomping chord progressions and melodic riffs that cross each other like Bad Religion meets Iron Maiden. Pull their guitars out of the mix and place them by themselves and you’ve got a decent record. “Kiss Me, I’m Contagious,” the album’s standout track, pumps aggressive face-stomping fists that could drive a head through a concrete wall. The track also shows that bassist Jon Weisberg isn’t some chump, either. Fuzz on the bass, fast fills, with a thundering sound that is lost on most of the album. If his bass comprised the entire album, I’d love to hear it.
But Dear Diary isn’t just killer drums, bass or guitars. When you put all the parts together, what’s most evident is that the foursome’s limited knowledge of the history of their genre and that the mainstream symbolic “riffs” lack emotion. Together, that means a sound that’s tired and way too overplayed.
Lead vocalist Sonny Moore, newly inducted into the FFTL lineup, would sometimes be better suited on an early Goo Goo Dolls album than anything Epitaph would put out. His lyrics are good enough and his delivery is fine, but his voice recalls a Real World shit segment when some fraternity punk gets a case over some sterile sorority chick. Or a videogame that’s marketed to 13- to 20-year-olds.
And there is no fucking angst. Love goes sour everyday, and that’s what most of these songs revolve around. The album’s title is taken from a lyric in the last song, “Ride the Wings of Pestilence”: “Dear diary, my teen angst bullshit has a body count.” Moore then goes into pretty good detail of where the dead romance is hidden. Angst is an over-hyped word used by over-hyped media to describe a skagged-out generation with no cause but self-pity as the world fronts against them. Whatever. Generation Y should never feed off of this media-induced bullshit. Hopefully FFTL can sort out its problems; I expect nothing less from them than to save rock ‘n’ roll one day.