Why Does Punk Always Go Pop?
Excuse my language, but why the f*#k do all punk bands feel the need to change their sound? Like really, too many of the punk bands I enjoy listening to release a killer first album with an authentic punk sound and by the time they release their second or third album, it all just goes downhill. Obviously a change in sound isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there are PLENTY of bands that change their sound and it absolutely sucks. I don’t know how else to go about this problem without providing an example of this contagious disease.
Check out this song by Transit from their first album Keep This to Yourself.
Now listen to this song from their latest album Young New England.
WHAT HAPPENED? ACTUALLY THOUGH, WHAT HAPPENED?
To clarify, I absolutely love Transit and don’t necessarily disagree with the avenue they have recently taken but I’m rather confused as to why they have experienced such as drastic change in sound. Obviously, as bands mature and develop musically they are inclined to experiment and take risks; however, I would have never anticipated this transformation from just listening to the first song posted above.
The first song really captures the persona of punk as it clocks in at just over two minutes with a fast-paced tempo that really seeks to get the crowd riled and involved. Meanwhile, the raspy, somewhat muffled vocals deliver the anger and angst hidden within the lyrics as lead singer Joe Boynton sings “Maybe I’m just cursed/I’m always hoping for the best/Preparing for the worst.” Also, as far as lyrics are concerned, backup singer, Tim Landers, contributes much more to the vocal tracking on the earlier albums than on more current albums. Landers definitely has a more punk voice than lead singer Boynton and as Transit progressed from punk to pop, it’s evident that Lander’s presence in the vocals wanes. To tie all this together, the crunchy guitar riffs and aggressive drum tracks drive the pace of the song and capture the overall ‘pissed-off’ tone of the punk genre of a whole.
The second song, while not terrible, definitely doesn’t feed off the same energies as the first song. While it’s evident Boynton has definitely found his vocal groove and expresses his prowess accordingly, the instrumental parts appear to be repetitive and almost forced. The intricate instrumentation found on their earlier albums has definitely dissipated and the focus has shifted from a split between instrumentation and vocals to just vocals. While this isn’t exactly bad, it’s definitely not as appealing. I definitely prefer attention to both vocals and supplemental guitar and drum parts as in a live setting those are what really drive the performance.
As if the transformation from punk to pop wasn’t evident in the juxtaposition of the two songs, it’s definitely palpable in a live setting. I’ve seen Transit live and although they primarily play their newer pop music, they throw it back with some punk sporadically throughout their set. The change in the crowd dynamic when this happens is simply indescribable. Many of the die-hard Transit fans simply go nuts when they hear the noteworthy guitar riff that prefaces “Please Head North”. As the song begins, all the tween girls head to the sides of the room and the pit opens up as people get ready to throw down. Although words only do so much to describe the shift in the crowd response, I actually sprained my ankle in the pit during “Please Head North”. Was it worth it? You better believe it.
I guess one of my biggest frustrations with this transformation stems from the waste of talent that has resulted. It’s evident in their earlier music and even their album Listen and Forgive that essentially bridges punk and pop, that all the musicians in Transit are very talented. Listen and Forgive is probably one of the most well-rounded albums I have ever listened to as it manages to have a mellow punk sound with splashes of pop. However, with their more recent albums, many of their talents are suppressed. The guitar parts appear to be much more mundane and generic while the drum parts come across as robotic and somewhat repetitive.
In response to the poor acceptance of their last album, Young New England, Transit is set to release a new album this October; however, based on their single which can be found below I don’t have the highest hopes. While it definitely taps into the stylings of Listen and Forgive, it doesn’t quite feel the same. While discussing the release with one of my close friends back home, it claimed the song almost has a country twang. While at first I was completely baffled by this comment and quickly discredited it, if you listen closely, Boynton’s vocals seem a tad country at points.
I really want to see Transit revitalize their roots and foster a much more punk sound as I think it has taken a toll on their fan base and band members themselves as backup singer Tim Landers recently left the band. I guess time will only tell if Transit will be able to pull off a complete 180. While I commend them for taking risks musically, I think they have moved too fast and too drastically to really see a widespread acceptance of their new direction. It will be interesting to see what the remainder of the new album entails which is set to be released on the 21st of October.