RIYL: Hit the Lights, New Found Glory, early All Time Low
Something About Airplanes are a 5-piece pop punk outfit from Portland, OR. Their self-released debut EP Whoa! Dude! Dang! delivers pretty standard pop punk very much in the vein of Hit The Lights. Everything is written in major keys, they flirt with breakdowns on occasion, and infectious melodies dominate throughout. This EP doesn’t really deliver anything you haven’t heard before in several other places, but fortunately the band does this sound very well. They’ve done their homework.
Perhaps comparing them to Hit The Lights is a bit of an understatement, though. If I didn’t know better I would think of this as some lost bridge EP between HTL’s “This Is A Stickup” and “Skip School, Start Fights.” The opening guitar lead on You Sunk My Battleship (the first track after the intro) sounds directly ripped from an HTL song, and the overall instrumental and songwriting approach is remarkably similar. However, the performances are all solid and enjoyable, if lacking a little originality. The drums are clean and thumpy, the guitars crunch in the lows and soar on highs, and vocalist Lee Parks does a dead-on impression of Hit The Lights’s original singer, Colin Ross. Technical showmanship takes a backseat to energetic songs, as is typical of the genre. The instrumentals are powerful for using staccato bursts of power to great effect but reining in during choruses to let the songs breathe.
Lyrically, Whoa! Dude! Dang! definitely leaves something to be desired in terms of depth. Lucky then that their positive attitude keeps things from getting unbearable. Most of the songs focus on melancholy-but-hopeful themes, like falling back on friends during a breakup or remembering the good times during the bad. There are some groan-worthy lines to be sure, such as “You’re my girl / I’m your guy / Forever!” (from the track You Sunk My Battleship), which unfortunately also sounds rather insincere. This prevents them from substituting heart for depth à la New Found Glory (who deliver such lines with enough integrity to save it) but they don’t ruin the album by any means. SAA does manage to throw in memorable choruses, such as The Bros and Cons: “I come up on my boys / And give them high fives / Cause the fun’s going down tonight / And that’s all I really need to forget our history.” It’s not deep but it strikes a chord with that freshly dumped adolescent in all of us.
If this record has something that shines above everything else, it’s the production. Everything sounds clean and tight, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that SAA are an unsigned group of kids. Somebody in this band must have access to a great studio, and really know their stuff when it comes to production. Specifically the drums sound absolutely perfect. Machine or Joey Sturgis may as well have recorded the percussion on here.
There isn’t a whole lot that distinguishes Something About Airplanes from the rest of the crowded pop-punk/hardcore/popmosh scene, but their saving grace is that they have become very good at delivering that sound early in their career. Brief spikes of hardcore are perfectly placed throughout the record, adding flavor and intensity to songs without turning them into meathead pits, peppy guitar leads dominate the mix, and there are some huge sing along choruses to be had. It’s a shame that they’ve been unable to find a replacement vocalist for Lee, because there’s real potential here given the recent underground burst of DIY pop-punk.
Drums – Chris Dini
Bass – Anthony Taylor
Guitar – Nick Berg
Guitar – Nick Sisouphanh
Vocals – Lee Parks (no longer a member)
– David Cubine