Burnt Tapes are an emotional punk band, it will take you about twenty seconds to notice this once you hit play on Never Better. The atmospheric introduction sets the scene for vocals that are almost entirely emotive cracks on the title track, this completely sets the scene for an album full of variety.
The emotive vocals beautifully tie personal lyrics together, the guitars and bass continually tug on the heart strings whilst drums sit in the background gently driving the whole release. Drums don’t often get the credit they deserve but within this album there is a delicately balanced touch that never imposes on the vocals or instrumentation, instead gently building drum lines give the whole release flow and purpose. Just in front of the drums guitar and bass lines interact with knife edge precision, moving from delicately plucked moments of emotion to huge soaring hooks without ever skipping a tone. The aforementioned vocals rightfully take focus and combine delicacy with gnarled emotion once more without either tone missing the opportunity to develop naturally. The natural progression within this musicianship is an example of very good composition.
Despite the natural emotive themes this album is based on there are moments of the most infectious pop punk song writing, the flow between gentle pre-chorus and infectious chorus in ‘Yuzi’ is straight out of the Front Bottom’s playbook and the opening three songs have the dark hooks of Alkaline Trio. These pop punk moments don’t only avoid the cliché song-writing but with the gravely vocals (particularly within key moments) the sound is taken towards melodic hardcore and beyond. Within this genre defying the band take on so many exciting influences from ‘Dirt Roads’ which combines Gaslight Anthem’s vintage guitar with the angst filled vocals of Doctorines to the isolated Lemonheads esq vocal of ‘Forty, Forty Five’ during which guitars faultlessly move between fragile and powerful.
This is an album with a complete understanding of pop punk, power pop and melodic hardcore/punk and how to combine elements to create something both individual and familiar. The punchy choruses and infectious gang vocals take the focus on the first few listens and then the musical magic becomes clearer. There are moments where the musicianship moves towards math rock but somehow stays accessible and catchy. The guitar solo within ‘Lost In Transit’ creates a moment to reflect on what is probably one of the bleakest sets of lyrics within the whole release, the honesty and effortless guitar flow creates something truly special until the entire album fades away like a getaway car.
This is a special release with variety creating an album with flow and purpose and the natural sound to tempo changes creating something that sounds effortless and organic. The real test of this composition and song-writing will be how they sound live.