Close To Home – Never Back Down
Record Label: Artery Foundation / Razor & Tie
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Cincinnati, Ohio’s Close To Home are a band not unlike A Day To Remember with their blend pop-punk laced with hardcore tendencies. However, the problem here is they really just try too hard. Their attempt to meld genres on Never Back Down results in confusion, if nothing else. As a result, the record may be the most scattered, convoluted, ultimately confusing record in recent memory.
The record is nearly impossible to describe due to its inconsistencies. After the intro, the first real track “Days Of Our Lives” is as pop-rock as it gets, leaving the listener to expect a summery pop-punk record. This sentiment, however, is short lived. What follows are failed attempts at “bro-core” and hardcore, as the screams of “You were the one but now you’re something else” on “Count the Ways” are honestly laughable. The hardcore mentality continues on the further attempts to be terrifying (“All We Know” and the destructive “End of an Era”). Well, there you have the attempts to be heavy and metal.
Next, we will press on to the radio rock numbers, which may be (sadly) the best parts of the record. The uplifting “Nothing Lasts Forever” is actually executed rather well, as the sing-scream formula works at its best here; even the chorus is catchy as hell. Likewise, “Empty Roads” successfully uses the same formula. Beginning with vocalist Nick Stiens’ soft vocals, the track picks up quite well, and does have hit-worthy potential, for sure. Close To Home have proven their strengths lie within catchy rock numbers (“Sink or Swim”).
Now, if only they would have stayed on that note. The aforementioned wannabe hardcore tracks kill every attempt at skill CTH have, as “Behind the Scenes” is as misplaced as it gets. Oh, wait, a Set Your Goals-esque track? Yes, the penultimate “The View From Here” kicks off as just this. Soaring guitars and vocals, the track is actually executed quite well; that is, until the low screams take the light and ruin the track. Albeit starting out with potential, the track again only portrays ridiculous inconsistency, for Close To Home can’t decide if they’re pop-punk or Atreyu. The problem lies with the experimentation with everything in between.
The final track “Picking Up The Pieces” could be played on any alt-rock hit radio, easily. The lyrics are lame and cliché, but this closer shows off the skill of Steins on vocals. As the record ends, the closer again proves Close To Home should just stick to being pop-rock. It is the hardcore (and even deathmetal) screams and tendencies amid the pop nature of the guys that really just creates extreme confusion within the listener. Thus, the lack of identity possessed within Never Back Down depletes any strength Close To Home expel throughout the record. If they can just hone in on their pop-rock aspects – as successfully done with the powerful closer – these guys could probably make a name for themselves amid that scene. If not, hardcore vs. pop-punk fans everywhere will just be confused.