Punchline - Delightfully Pleased
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Record Label: Modern Short Stories/TDR Records
"You won't find songs of hopelessness on this record." There it is. Right there, your money-back guarantee from Punchline, on the opening lines on the Pennsylvania quartet's sixth album, Delightfully Pleased. And they're right - you're not going to be feeling downtrodden or isolated after listening to the always-endearing anthems from a band who knows arena-filled, sell-out crowds don't determine success. It doesn't have to. Ultimately, what makes Punchline successful is the fact they keep going at it, again and again, marking the second release from the band's own label, Modern Short Stories.
This might sound rather contradictory, but what dissolves and separates Punchline from the checks & balances world of everyday pop-punk is that they have a happy, jubilant sound you won't find many other places. And I dont't mean happy-'til-you-puke happy - just feel-good, let's-go-frolic-in-the-hay type happy. Not to mention, Delightfully Pleased marks a return to their Fueled by Ramen days, as well as moving forward and establishing some high-grade material that doesn't sound like previous records at all. Allow me: "The Reinventor" is somewhat ironic for its title, and sounds like it could have fit on 37 Everywhere. Yet the band comes out of nowhere with bold numbers like the everchanging "A Universal Theme" and Magical Mystery Tour on a sugar-high "Coyotes in B Major." Both tracks go completely about face and prove that while continuing to be humble Pennsylvanians who turns frowns upside down... they're making changes.
"Seventy" conveys plenty of truth and whip-smart on melodic appeal, popping with zest and gratitude. "Roller Coaster Smoke" is a highlight, a song sure to appeal to any fan of TV's "Lost," but for the unfamiliar, it boasts a massively ear-catching hook over a lazy-Sunday riff with plenty of references for any Lostie. "21 Forever" shows off just how much melody the band carries in their Gym Bag of Awesomeness: the dual vocal combination of Steve Soboslai and returning member Paul Menotiades is nothing short of extraordinary, and Jamie Woolford's production is pitch-perfect harmony, all coming together as gospel for the young, ignorant and narcissistic. "Keystoned" shows off the good-natured humor of the band, while managing to become a truly informative geographical lesson and fitting tribute to their home state. "Into the Mouth" is a quick burst of Queen-like powerpop, blossoming into the succeeding track that's a little 80's-era Stevie Wonder with an acoustic background. It's a song that continues to explore the band's tongue-in-cheek modesty ("I'm gonna be the biggest rock star that you probably never heard of") while emphasizing their humble intentions.
Give credit to both the band and producer Woolford (who makes a minor cameo late in the record) for keeping things tightly condensed, ready to pop at all corners. The humor and melodic quota here hit their stride and keep it at the right pace without ever blowing their wad on one singular portrait. "Greatest. Party. Ever" would likely be stretched into overkill by many other "ain't lookin' for nothin' but a good time" pop-punk bands, but Punchline know a little over two minutes is plenty of time to fit some cheeky lyrics into a fun song, and keep it at that. "No Significant Other" soars on production feats alone, mainly due to its cliched lyrical pattern (it's actually the only 'depressing' song here). Part of the reason Punchline is so likable isn't merely due to their dashing looks, but it's also due to their knowledge of how the genre works. They aren't looking to create model platforms for all bands to abide by; they have a great time, and it shows. These are four guys who love what they do and write songs you can't help but sing along with (whether intentionally or not). Upon seeing them try out some big stuff early on in their career, the last three albums have shown a band finding their step and really getting comfortable with where they are. Delightfully Pleased flows like the salmon of Capistrano, and sincerely feels like the most complete album Punchline have released in their decade-plus career.
Some of the humor might go over a few heads as the band is cleverly focused on harnessing an audience that knows them well enough. For those willing to take the time to understand anything they don't quite get (whether it's the band's turbulent history, anything in regards to the state of Pennsylvania or watching the complete series of "Lost"), they're bound to find the tightest, most cohesive record the band has yet to produce. Again, hats off to Woolford for expanding the production even more than before and giving Soboslai more chances to be the voice of a unified group. Always evolving and never stopping, Punchline isn't a one-note joke. These four pups are giving old tricks a new lease on life, and brandishing their own hopeful trademark onto each one they reevaluate. Just like all good punk rock, it's perfectly honest, infectious as all hell, and overflowing with snappy pop that contains a valuable sense of humor.
Just say yes to Delightfully Pleased. Okay, that was cheesy - let's try that again: you've got a friend in Pennsylvania and in your headphones. You can call them Punchline; they'll call you... Delightfully Pleased.
Sounds awesome. The only stuff I've heard from them was Action (which I love) and Rollar Coaster Smoke from that video in the news announcements yesterday (Lost ftw!). I might check this out.
Oh, and screw what people say. I like the cover art.