Never underestimate the power of a producer. One of the hottest names in the alternative/punk scene, Will Yip is a producer by title, but his contributions have done wonders for the artists he has worked with. Artists like Balance and Composure, The Wonder Years, and Title Fight all have Yip to thank for where they are today, and countless others have looked to Yip for their own piece of his guidance. New Jersey pop-punk outfit Major League are the latest addition to the Yip Club, working with him on their sophomore effort, There’s Nothing Wrong With Me. While it almost succeeds in its darker take on pop-punk, this record just falls short, serving as a transition, rather than a realization, of what may come next.
Despite the pop-punk moniker, this record is lacking as far as typical pop-punk trappings go. There are no up-tempo punk rock drum fills, intensely yelled verses, or body thrashing melodies, all wrapped together in a nice, half-hour package. It leans a little more towards the emo side of the genre, and even then it barely brushes its pop-punk classification. There are moments, like on the standout “Kaleidoscopes”, where the band leans toward pop-punk territory, but even it has a noticeably darker tone than Major League’s counterparts in the scene. Its heavy guitar licks and opening drum roll kick into a high energy head-banger that has the slightest hint of hardcore to it, akin to what you may expect from a typical pop-punk group.
Fans of Yip’s previous work are sure to notice pieces of Citizen and Turnover here, with new vocalist Brian Joyce possessing that gruff, angst-tinged voice that, when combined with this record’s darker melodies and heavier instrumentals, is sure to draw comparisons to the former’s Youth and the latter’s Magnolia. Those bands draw a little more from the traditional pop-punk playbook, but in the end, they really lean towards the emo end of the scale, precisely as Major League do here, but without the artistic cohesion that those groups have.
The album stays short, and unfortunately this works to the band’s disadvantage, as these songs have trouble sticking like they should. They’re darker yes, and will hold you over when you listen to them, but as a whole they don’t really stand out. Songs like “Pillow Talk” and “Devil’s Advocate” have all the makings of great songs. With their powerful guitar riffs, strong instrumental dynamics, and dark melodies, these cuts feel like they should be stronger than they actually are. Instead, the songs are lost in the stop-and-go of the drums, or the conflicting vocal harmonies that don’t feel natural. They feel like a shell of what they could be, lacking the energy of those groups they aim to take heed from. Even the acoustic take “Montreal” feels confused, with the acoustic strums not aligning very well with Joyce’s vocals, which is remedied by his louder yells, but in the end, the song doesn’t really come together as it should.
There is a bit of disconnect here. In their attempt to drive towards a darker and more mature sound, Major League tries to stay true to their pop-punk roots. However, their best stuff on this album comes from their forays into pop-punk that are both dark and mature. When they try to take from their emo peers, they get so close to doing so effectively, but there are pieces missing in this puzzle. They are not ready to forget what they know, and this keeps them from doing what they have aspired to do to the fullest extent. It is clearly influenced by Yip’s previous work, but it doesn’t seem like Major League was ready to make such a creative shift.
That is not to say that this album isn’t enjoyable. It can be quite the enjoyable album with repeated listens, though not as much as one may hope. Yip’s work with the group has definitely taken them to a good place, where they can grow from what they have accomplished here. That being said, There’s Nothing Wrong Me does not stretch very far beyond the realm of an experiment. Major League are sure to learn from this record and come back swinging next time, but this time around they fall just short of getting to where they want to be.