Over the past week or so, Punchline has garnered quite a bit of attention about this EP, in part because of bassist Chris Fafalios’s statement that he would give up playing bass if it doesn’t reach #1 on iTunes. While some took this as some sort of ploy to get more money or as a desperate cry for attention, anyone who’s ever had any sort of contact with him or anyone else in the band knows that this isn’t the case. The band has been around for nearly fifteen years, and bands that have been around that long aren’t simply in it for the money. They’ve even offered their latest full-length, the fantastic Delightfully Pleased, for free. Chris stated that he felt that these songs were the band’s best work, and that the combination of the release of this EP and their appearance on Fox’s show Mobbed in the same week made this a make-or-break moment. While it’s certainly a bold move, the overall quality of So Nice To Meet You makes me very optimistic that Chris will be playing bass in Punchline for a long time.
The EP opens with “Universe,” a song that multiple band members have stated they feel is the best they’ve ever written, and it’s easy to see why. The lyrics focus on frontman Steve Soboslai’s relationship with the woman he sets up the flash mob on Mobbed for, who he had talked to for a long time but never met in person until that point. The melodies are undeniably catchy, and the instrumental parts are as solid as any the band has written, with drummer Cory Muro contributing some particularly nice fills. I’ve watched them perform the track live four times, and the recorded version surpassed all of my already-high expectations. The production makes the song sound huge, and I’m already preparing to put it on my year-end list.
“Everything I Wanted” is another track the band debuted in a live setting, and it was received pretty well as far as new songs at concerts go, with good reason. The song shows the other side of their lyrical tendencies, with lots of fun pop-culture references thrown into the mix. A little more straightforward than “Universe,” the track is full of great harmonies and is almost as catchy as the opener. Incorporating a short electronic part after the two-minute mark reminiscent of the recently-released remix of “21 Forever,” this song has plenty to catch your attention with each new listen.
On my first listen, “I Swear I’ve Been Here Before” struck me as a standout, and it’s still my favorite after repeated plays, which says a lot when considering how much as I love “Universe.” It’s a few steps ahead for the band from a songwriting standpoint, while still maintaining the band’s distinctive sound. The lyrics are personal and universal, with the instrumental parts fitting together perfectly, showing great restraint and complimenting the vocals. The track builds from minimalist piano and guitar parts to a powerful chorus and strong second verse. I’m a big fan of song bridges, and this track has one of the best I can think of at this moment. There isn’t anything that I’d change about this song, and I’m eagerly anticipating hearing it live and singing every word.
The fourth and final song written by the band on So Nice To Meet You, “Very Nervous System,” is the standout from an instrumental standpoint, with the best parts on the entire EP. While lead guitarist Paul Menotiades shines, all of the guitar, drum, and bass parts are great, while the vocal melodies are strong as well. This song might have the biggest chorus on the EP, with more reserved parts incorporated to create some nice dynamic effect. The guitar parts in this track are of the sort that get me interested in songs, but the overall cohesiveness of the band as a whole is what keeps me coming back.
A cover of Cheap Trick‘s “I Want You To Want Me” ends the EP. While I wasn’t overly excited for the song when I saw it on the track list, it’s a surprisingly good fit for Punchline’s sound and solid representation of the original, as the band maintained the track’s signature feel while still making it their own. The song is featured on the band’s appearance on Mobbed, and it’s pretty clear that they had a lot of fun recording it. From the way that Steve sings to the upbeat guitar, drum, and bass parts, everything about it is a blast. Though I might have preferred another original song, this cover is more than sufficient for this EP.
While I might have a bit of a bias toward So Nice To Meet You due to my admiration for this band and how much I want this release to go to #1 on iTunes, I don’t think that it really affects anything that I wrote in this review. This is honest, earnest pop-punk at its finest, and I completely understand the belief that this is the band’s best work, even if I might still prefer their past full-lengths (for the time being, at least). If there was ever a band that deserved to be #1 for even the slightest amount of time, it’s Punchline. These are genuine people in a great band running a great label, and this EP is proof of their talent. It’s full of strong songwriting, well-written lyrics and instrumental parts, and tons of passion. Punchline is making music because they love it. The least we can do as music fans is to help them to keep giving us songs of this quality. At $4.95, it’s a steal.