J Church - The Horror Of Life
Release Date - March 20, 2007
Record Label - No Idea Records
To the average music fan the mention of “J Church” will most likely elicit a “Huh?” or “Who the hell are they?”, however to many punk rock followers, particularly those who are rabid fans of the East Bay punk sound, the name is instantly recognizable. Since their 1991 inception, the band has released material at a frenzied pace and their discography is virtually unrivaled by many of their peers. The Horror Of Life marks the bands first album since their last No Idea released record, Society Is A Carnivorous Flower , which hit shelves in 2004.
The Horror Of Life is an album that focuses mostly on death and its meanings and the fear people have of it. The album has a wide range of topics related to death from the Russian space program that launched dogs into outer space on “Cosmonaut” to Hahn’s look at getting older and all the problems that come with it (“Tomorrow and Forever”). Hahn’s health problems,which he has battled since 1999, influenced this record as well and he has stared death in the face countless times himself. However, with all the depressing subject matter behind it and used as inspiration for the album, The Horror Of Life comes across as your standard issue, raucous punk rock record.
In the age of song titles that are entirely too long and bands constantly lengthening their songs with each album, J Church stick to the simplistic approach, filling The Horror of Life with sixteen simple, punk rock anthems that rarely exceed the two minute mark. “Vampire Girl Prefers Me Alive” starts the album out with the energetic and bouncy style of pop-punk J Church is known for and is an instantly accessible track. It is the blasts of melodic punk rock that make this album enjoyable, and there are a few songs on here that follow this tried and true formula also (“The Horror Of Life”, “The World’s Tiniest Violin”, and “Tomorrow and Forever”). However, J Church have been known to toy with their sound and experiment with different genres, and that is no different on The Horror Of Life. There are blisteringly fast punk and hardcore influenced tracks such as “Eric Dolphy”, “New Ho Minh Chi Minh City”, and “Viva La Muerte” and slower indie-rock influenced songs like “Cosmonaut” and “The Ocean”.
Depending on your views and tastes within the punk rock genre, you will either love or hate The Horror Of Life. Personally, I did not care for the vocals on most of the tracks and even with the slight shift in genres strewn throughout the record, the songs seem to blend together. If you put this record in your stereo and do not take notice of what track number is playing each time you will soon find yourself sitting there thinking “wow, I thought I was only halfway through the record”. Sure, for some this will not be much of a problem and may even be something they love when it comes to the punk rock records they enjoy, but for others it will be an unsatisfying listen and this album will strike them as nothing new to the genre. With plenty of punk rock bands out there pushing the boundaries of the genre and creating refreshing and inventive records, The Horror Of Life is in danger of falling by the wayside as “just another punk release”. People will either love this record or not really care for it, and I fall in the latter category. However, fans of the East Bay sound and those who have followed punk rock for a considerably long time will find much to enjoy on this record and it will remind them of the music they listened to growing up.