Comeback Kid - Symptoms + Cures
Record Label: Victory Records
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Confidence really is the key to success. If you don't believe in what you're doing, neither will those buying whatever you're selling -- and that can be said for nearly any medium or business property. When it comes to music specifically, confidence gives bands momentum which is parlayed to the audience who will then determine whether or not it's worth buying into. For Canadian hardcore band Comeback Kid, that concept has never been more apt than it is on their fourth full-length record Symptoms + Cures. The band's second go-around with vocalist Andrew Neufield, it's a tautly intense workout that is unlike any other record the band has conceived. Building upon the structure of what made Broadcasting... stand out and re-channelling the ferocity of Wake the Dead, it's a surefire contender for punk record of the year.
At forty minutes, it is Comeback Kid's longest record and honestly their most productive, not to mention their most intelligent. Like a conceptually-designed boxing match, each hit is so well coordinated, it knocks you flat all while reveling in its beautifully unjust angst (although, whether or not it's unjust is really in the hands of the victim, isn't it?). "Do Yourself a Favor" practically grabs you by the shoulders and shakes your bones loose in a very Wake the Dead-like fashion, as if to say, "We can kick your ass, now listen to how nice that makes us feel". Every minute just feels more comfortable, as if the band took the past three years to craft their swagger into a sound that would finally end the griping about "which singer is best," Neufield or Scott Wade.
Then again, it's a different approach now. This isn't loud, thoughtless and aggressive for aggressive's sake hardcore punk. It still electrocutes your soul - there's no argument there - it simply does it in a way that stems from more braintrust. "Pull Back the Reins" is a stampede of destruction that's similar to Poison the Well's best work, benefitting from some excellent production halfway through. The title track builds into a powerful burst of emotion from Neufield, who is given full disclosure to have at it ("The Concept Says," even with the gang vocals and guest spot). Yet the real triumph here is how etheral and illuminating this hardcore album sounds. Yes, I just used both etheral and illuminating in a review for a hardcore punk album (am I the first?).
From a purely musical standpoint, vocals removed, this is an extremely well-oiled machine constructed on basic elements, but guiding them each in a new way not many bands of their sort are doing or have done - at least to my knowledge. Weaving from rhythm-heavy build-ups ("G.M. Vincent and I") to straightforward riff-rage ("Magnet Pull"), it's a cosmic blend of one band's departure from their initial imprint and embarking on a similar effort with a new confidence in tow. Kyle Profeta is a damned beast on the kit, and Matt Keil dominates as a pitch-perfect Scottie Pippin to Profeta's Michael Jordan ("Get Alone" is eargasmic rhythm-based bliss on headphones).
"Because of All" practically sounds like it could be a bonafide rock hit, and "Crooked Floors" is classically pinpointed chaos, swirling with a newly-loosened swagger from both Neufield and axemen Jeremy Hiebert & Casey Hjelmberg, who flirt with several playful moments on both the quick cuts and extracted getaways from the "usual" style. The production might be a bit too fine-tuned for some tastes, but the raw in-your-face style would fail to deliver a similar effect. This isn't garden variety hardcore: it knocks your teeth out, yes... but it gives you time to pick them all up off the ground. All in all, you couldn't ask for a better rejuvenation from a hardcore band who was still recovering from a shift in power last time. Now that the pressure cooker is boiling over and the guys know what they can do, Symptoms + Cures looks to be a spectacular beginning for an exciting future.
Don't get me wrong, I like the album and I think CBK is somewhere near the front of the hardcore pack - but there is zero comparison in vocals. The band is permanently worse without Scott and that will NEVER change.