Heroes For Hire - Take One for the Team
Record Label: Shock Records
Release Date: May 13, 2011
Chances are if you heard Sydney-based pop punk four-piece Heroes For Hire's debut record, Life of the Party, you would've spotted out about four really solid anthems in the veins of New Found Glory, Hit the Lights and early Fall Out Boy (think Take This to Your Grave). But the rest of that album was left to stagnate because it sounded like any average old pop punk boredom. Heroes for Hire have stepped it up a couple of notches in every respect on their sophomore release, Take One for the Team, and I find it hard to fault (in it's highest moments, I mean). From the first listen, I was really getting into it. Vocalist Brad Smith truly shines, and yes, without a single hint of auto tune. This guy really can sing. The drums are energetic, courtesy of Lee McGaritty, generally giving the songs a hardcore edge, and the guitars of Duane Hazel are nicely produced but also smoothly played.[/color]
From the get-go, Take One for the Team is a modern pop punk masterpiece. It's an album that could be on the list of revivalist lead-ins. Where songs like "Without a Sound" and "Soon this Will be Ours" dominated Life of the Party, the new record surpasses all those same old songs in quality and catchiness. Opener and lead single "No Milk Will Ever Be Our Milk" is a frenzy of Fall Out Boy-inspired riffs and powerful drums. The song has a nice classic punk vibe. It stays with you even as the bouncy "All Messed Up" begins with its introductory drum beat (see Simple Plan's "God Must Hate Me") and sickly sweet display of brilliant musicianship, vocal harmonies and gang vocals accompanying one of the best choruses I've heard in a long time.
Skipping "You only Live Once" because it's just there for the Na Na's, "Doonside School Football Rules" pays homage to the band's background and Western Sydney childhood. It's so energetic (see what I said about hardcore before?) and even starts off with a much appreciated "Fuck Yeah!" It doesn't stop; it's pure, savage punk, reminiscent of Blink-182's heavier side. And then it dives into a Set Your Goals-esque breakdown before reprising the final chorus with a whole bunch of gang vocals and whoah-oh's.
There's a nice Toy Story reference ("That's Not Flying, It's Falling With Style") following the generic sex-song "Secrets, Lies and Sins." And then comes blazin' (yeah, I know) "East Coast Blazin'," a vigorous guitar jam (the intro is a resurrection of "M+M's" by Blink) leaning more towards the popcore side of the band with a power chorus that's already been heard I don't know how many times on other songs. It's really the first time that I was struck with slight disappointment at the band; it's like they were starting to do what they did on the last album and just changed the lyrics in each song.
"It's Not Too Late" is a nice surprise - very Hit the Lights with a chorus that, as catchy as it may be with its vocal hooks, kind of reminds me of HTL's "Stay Out." It was beginning to look like the last three songs were merely fillers that were nothing new from what I'd come to expect of the band. So it was only coincidental (or circumstantial?) that the next track, "A Crash Course In Comedowns," revived the albums's original energy and brought something new to the table. The song leads in with a rhetorical ("Would you excuse me, I'm a mess") and chunky guitar chords. It then follows up with an equally chunky popcore continuation in the verse, building on it's instrumental textures, and exploding in the anthem/chorus with shout outs of "We are, we are, we are, we're not invincible." The song rises to a quick climax at the end of the instrumental bridge (you know, because pop punk guitarists don't do solos?) of wispy gang vocals and a swaying final chorus before ending with a faded drum line.
Then comes the always-to-be-expected soft love song in the form of "Keeping Me Safe." I've gotta say, I was impressed with the quality of Smith's vocals that led the very powerful chorus (which just happens to reprise in a thunderous mass of distortion, strings and booming bass drums). Finally, the closer "Before I Die" is hardcore, non-stop and hopefully a brief insight into what's to come next. The chorus is catchy as fuck ("Before I die, I will write down every moment of my life"), the verse kills you and you can't listen to the song without blasting the hell out of it. It's a true mosh-to number.
It seems to me as though HFH have done something unexpected with Take One for the Team; they've combined two albums together. Most bands will write one album that seems out of place because it bridges the gap between the previous release and it's successor. HFH seemed to have made that bridging record half of what comes out on this album. I guess it's a bit of a bummer because this album could be their peak, but my assumptions aside, I want to see if they can top this album with number three, because I know Take One for the Team defintely translates their potential.