While this is technically the debut full-length from I Call Fives, it hardly feels as if the term “debut” is really applicable. It’s like when a band with three albums wins a “Best New Band” award at some joke of a ceremony; anyone who knows anything already knew what was up. With a handful of EPs in over half a decade, the band has established a sound that’s at once definitively pop-punk and distinctly its own. When I was lucky enough to hear an early version of this record a few months back in the band’s van, I knew it was going to be something special, and the final product doesn’t disappoint one bit. It’s fast-paced, emotional, catchy, and everything you could ever hope for a band like this to be.
Full of biting lines, great guitar parts, and a driving beat, “Late Nights” is the perfect opening track for this record, setting the stage for what’s to come later on. The hooks are all there in every aspect of the song, and this is sure to be a setlist staple for years to come. “Obvious” starts off firing on all cylinders, but reels it back in a bit in time for the second verse. The choppy guitars are a highlight, and the lyrics make this a great breakup song. “Backup Plan” is the only carryover from the band’s earlier work, and it makes even more sense in the context of this record. I loved it when I reviewed the Someone That’s Not You EP in March, and I love this version now, with the addition of some harmonies serving as a nice touch to keep the song fresh.
“The Fall Guy” opens with some impressive guitar work, continues with some impressive guitar work, and ends with some impressive guitar work. Seriously, I love how many different types of parts appear throughout this track, from the solo to that tricky little bit in the bridge. The chorus is huge, and the layering in the vocals toward the end of the song is done well. Between the guitars and the sheer number of different textures, there’s new stuff to find all over this song with each new listen. “Stuck In ’03” is a throwback to formative years and has one of the most memorable choruses of the album, keeping up with the fantastic guitar work and transitioning into the burst of energy that is the seconds-long “Enemy,” which somehow kicks the tempo up even further in a way that calls to mind Silverstein‘s Short Songs.
Slowing things down just slightly, “Wrong Things” adds a touch of diversity with less in-your-face instrumentals and one of the best sets of lyrics on the record. Lines like, “it’s good to realize it’s who you’re with, not what you’ve done” and “I won’t lose out anymore” make this one of the most positive offerings here. If there isn’t an acoustic version of this song eventually, I’d be really surprised. “Two Sides To Every Story” reinstates sharp words and quicker tempo to bring the energy levels back up a bit to make this another easy choice for future live sets. “We Were Right Together and We Were Wrong Together” has some great drum parts and one of the best sing-along lines on the record in “it’s hard to make amends when you turn your back on your friends.” All in all, it’s a pretty well-balanced piece of writing for how short the song is.
“Regrets and Setbacks” starts off almost faster than the track itself can take, with overlapping lines in the verses and a pounding beat and intense riffs propelling everything forward. The chorus has a powerful hook, and the bridge gives some room to breathe before kicking back into a final chorus. This might be the most “punk” song on the record, “Enemy” aside. Ending the album proper is “Sleep Well,” another standout track. The chorus will be stuck in your head for days and, while the instrumental parts are generally more restrained than they are on other songs, they still shine in places like the drum breakdown and accompanying bass accents. Bonus track “All You’ve Got Left” is a fitting epilogue to the record, with lyrics that are a bit more reflective and seem to tie everything together well. I honestly can’t see why it isn’t included on the actual record, because it works so perfectly. In any case, you should seek it out if your version doesn’t include it.
Right now, I Call Fives is my favorite pop-punk album of 2012, and it will undoubtedly be in constant rotation for a long time. Each instrument has its own fantastic parts, and everything (even the bass, unlike many other records in this genre) comes across clearly and works together perfectly to create a certain feeling. While “Stuck In ’03” name-drops albums that clearly played a huge part in making I Call Fives into what it is, I believe that this record is one that will stick with me in that very same way, joining albums like New Found Glory‘s Catalyst and Punchline‘s 37 Everywhere as albums that hold a particular meaning for me. There are distinctions to be made between this and those records, particularly in terms of pace and how this one never really relents. However, the things that set them apart for me are the clear level of passion in the songwriting and the way the records as complete stories embody a particular feeling. I Call Fives is crafted to make personal connections, and that is not accomplished easily. If you like pop-punk, you should be listening to this record. If you don’t like pop-punk, this might just change your mind. I Call Fives is doing it right.