The Loved Ones - Build & Burn
Record Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Release Date: February 5, 2008
There are bands out there that require a certain amount of time and effort to be enjoyable. The reasons for this varies; it could be due to the complexity of their music or just being outright different than the average band of their genre. Nevertheless, I find if the effort is put into enjoying these bands every now and then it pays off and they become lifelong favorites.
The Loved Ones have always been the antithesis to these bands.
Immediately enjoyable and unrelentingly catchy, they play a type of pop punk with an emphasis on the punk, a sound similar to that of label mates Smoke or Fire and The Lawrence Arms. However, as their previous release Keep Your Heart proves, they have a difficult time keeping things interesting for the entirety of a full album. As such, it took less than a month for Keep Your Heart to fall out of my rotation. So I approached Build & Burn with some questions in mind. Did The Loved Ones realize this weakness and take efforts to change up their sound? And, more importantly, does it work?
Build & Burn begins with the quintessential Loved Ones song “Pretty Good Year.” Though it does absolutely nothing to change the formula of songs past, it is still a quality song. The next few tracks retain the quality of “Pretty Good Year” but do little to change up The Loved Ones' sound. Really, there’s no point in describing them as I’d just be repeating myself. Luckily, when track five “Brittle Heart” kicks in, the listener knows they are in for something a little different. The song is a little slower than their standard fare, along with call-and-response vocals and a little bit more interesting guitar work. Sometimes when a band slows down their songs this is a red flag that they’ve ran out of ideas and are trying to fill space on their record. Surprisingly though, The Loved Ones pull it off. “Brittle Heart” and the following “Selfish Masquerade,” which adds a piano to the mix, work perfectly as the midpoint of the album. They serve as a sort of transition to the new Loved Ones sound that is to come on the ensuing tracks.
“3rd Shift” begins with a heavy Social Distortion vibe - this is something that hasn’t appeared on previous songs by The Loved Ones, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. “Louisiana” keeps up with the folksy Loved Ones sound and is easily the best and, maybe not so coincidentally, diverse song on the album. Finally, The Loved Ones apparently decided they had experimented enough and return to their basic sound with probably the fastest song on the album “Dear Laura.” Unfortunately, Build & Burn closes on a relatively weak note with the love song “I Swear.” It is the only song on the album I don’t particularly care for, and if it were anywhere else on the album, I would skip it. Instead I can just turn it off.
As far as lyrics go, The Loved Ones have always taken a straightforward approach, and that doesn’t change on this album. There are some themes that are repeated throughout the album, so there are some repeated lyrics such as the ever present “keep your heart” and some repeated guitar riffs heard in some of their other songs. It isn’t overdone and serves as a kind of neat tie-in to previous efforts. This simplistic modus operandi is also apparent in the way they write their songs. This works in some cases, such as the aforementioned “Louisiana,” but can get repetitive in other instances. The gruff vocals of Dave Hause also follow this formula and are definitely one of the major strengths to the band. He is able to express a wide range of emotions and in the past has made some of their more lackluster songs musically actually worth listening to.
With Build & Burn The Loved Ones have done an admirable job of working on one of their major weaknesses. Though they still need to work on diversifying the album a bit more, it is nonetheless much more enjoyable and no longer fades into the background immediately. No longer will I view The Loved Ones as an overrated band living off of their connections to other well respected bands. While they haven’t quite reached the levels of their peers such as The Lawrence Arms, they have shown they are willing to work with their sound and may one day get there. As result they have made me much more interested in what they do next.
Agreed, Build & Burn is a solid, yet straight-forward album. Dave Hause's vocal performance on this album is absolutely perfect. They've changed up the tempo on this album and while they slowed things down a bit, it still really worked out.