Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: Punchline - Just Say Yes

Label: Velvet Ear Records

Released: September 16, 2008

I saw Punchline a couple years ago and they really stood out. Maybe it was just that they were on a bill full of horribly sappy emo or maybe they were just better live than in the studio, but their albums never lived up to that show. Until now.

Just Say Yes doesn't make big changes to Punchline's sound so much as expands it. They still play pop-punk that has a tendency to err on the side whiny emo and they still nail their hooks. The difference now is bigger riffs and more dynamic songs. Instead of only drawing from within their narrow scope, they soak in Foo Fighter-ish pop rock ("Punish or Privilege" is undeniably close to "Big Me"), rock-ified cabaret ("Somewhere in the Dark") and angular neo-new wave ("Just Say Yes"). "Maybe I'm Wrong" crosses over that line that separates good ballads from bad, but redeems itself in a feedback-laden, chaotic end. The two closing tracks mark Punchline's increased musical breadth. "The Other Piano Man" finds them big, bold and more than a little flamboyant while "Castaway" is masterful mellow pop. Overall, the broader palette is fueled by increased confidence and more muscular, arena-sized riffs that will serve Punchline well at the next level even if it doesn't make them entirely memorable over the long haul.

At its worst, Just Say Yes is better than its predecessors. At its best, it is knocking at the door of the best commercial rock out there. Punchline's game is still pretty much the AOR of today, but they're now near the top of that game. The music is pleasant and easy, but in the best way that it can be. If you need a record to challenge you, just say no, but if you enjoy a smooth, easy ride from time to time, Just Say Yes is as good an answer as any.

Satriani: 6/10
Zappa: 6/10
Dylan: 7/10
Aretha: 5/10
Overall: 6/10



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