MUSIC: John Reviews “Sweet Weaponry” by Cruiserweight

This review has been a long time coming, mostly because it’s taken me a very long time to decide exactly how I feel about the album.  I was first exposed to Cruiserweight through Pandora (which is, according to rumor, not long for this world.  Why do all my favorite internet radio stations die?) The station I created concentrated on bands with female vocalists, and included everything from Save Ferris and the Dance Hall Crashers to The Pipettes to Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.  All of a sudden, “Vermont” explodes out of my headphones with the best kind of surprising force, and I am instantly enamoured with Cruiserweight’s balls-to-the-wall powerpop/punk/core sound.  They sounded like a band of talented musicians who played high-energy fun music with a touch of bitterness not because it’s the cool thing to do (those days are gone) but because it’s what they love to play.  So the next time I went music shopping, I managed to find a copy of Sweet Weaponry and have been listening to it at intervals ever since.

You might be wondering why this review has taken me so long to write if I’ve been listening to Sweet Weaponry for two and a half months.  Well, the truth is that much of the album is very different from “Vermont,” and I really wanted to give it a fair shake.  After all, it seemed like all the reviews on iTunes and various other music sites were from people who loved the songs I hated and hated the songs I loved.  In the end, I’m chalking it up to different expectations and tastes (since almost all of those reviews mentioned how much the reviewers loved Paramore, a band that I couldn’t really care less about.)  So here’s my review, based on what I expected of Cruiserweight.  If you think your opinion might differ, I encourage you to listen to the audio previews and draw your own conclusions.

Sweet Weaponry opens with the aforementioned “Vermont,” which was both a good and bad idea.  On the one hand, it kicks your ass right away and lets you know what to expect from the band.  Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t really pick up to levels like this again until the middle.  The song itself is all about how much it sucks to have to conform to the rest of the crowd in life, summed up by one brilliant line that I’ve been using in casual conversation for years: “Everything is high school.”  I’d even argue that everything is middle school, but that may just be my own experience.

The next track that jumps out of the background for me is “To Be Quite Honest,” which is more forceful but slightly less fun than “Vermont.” It takes a shot at dear old Dad, who in this case was not so dear at all (and a bit of a misogynist, it would seem.)  The songs stars out with an extremely typical pop-punk riff, but thankfully kicks into a more interesting and thematically appropriate melody once the verses begin.

One of two tracks to really match “Vermont” is “Dearest Drew,” a song about a relationship that has one more chance for success, provided the person being sung to can stop acting like a jerk.  I really wanted this to work in the context of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but it never quite fit with those characters.  Still a very fun song, though, packed with tons of power, a catchy hook and gang vocals [a guilty pleasure of mine].  One of the verses includes what I think is a particularly clever set of lyrics: “We can’t dwell on this for too long / ’cause someone told me that you’re just a song / and I’m sick of music / so could you turn it down now?”  I also enjoyed the first lines of the chorus: “You know you broke your strike with me / but I won’t be gone / until you pick up your spare.”

The last standout track (for me) is one that I did include on my Nick & Norah soundtrack, “There You Are.”  It’s the most positive and uplifting song on the album, boasting a hopeful message and supportive lyrics.  It’s got just as much power as the ones mentioned above, though perhaps not as clever of lyrics [but more gang vocals!  Hooray!]  and is another example of Cruiserweight being gloriously unabashed in their love of fast, kinetic powerpop.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album does not live up to these excellent songs.  I found “Goodbye Daily Sadness” to have enjoyably clever lyrics (especially for all their short female listeners out there,) but something about the music felt awkward to me.  The fact that it’s the most beloved track by most of the other reviewers I saw further confuses me, but it takes different strokes to move the world.  “Passible” and “This Ain’t No Beach Party” both sound like Cruiserweight’s attempt to imitate Paramore’s sound, for better or worse.  Me, I’m not a big Paramore fan.  I will say that both songs have surprisingly enjoyable endings, which is something I’ve never really paid attention to in the past.  “This Ain’t No Beach Party” is the better of the two, largely because it has that same driving rhythm that makes so many Less Than Jake albums end up on permanent rotation in my car.

There are quite a few slow, emotional songs on Sweet Weaponry as well, but none of these did anything for me.  “Phantom Rider,” “Operation: Eyes Closed” and “Have You Ever Had One of Those Days?” all fall deep into alternative mediocrity for me, lacking a genuine emotional feel.  The exception is “At The End of the Tunnel There Is Always a Light,” which is slightly faster and more fun than the rest.  It has some amusing lyrics and is entertaining to listen to, which is more than I can say for the rest.

Cruiserweight is a band with a lot of potential, but a few identity issues.  I feel that they’re at their best when they’re a guitar-heavy powerpop band with boundless energy that sends impulses from your ears to your brain to your feet.  When they’re an angst-ridden and deeply emotional acoustic teen anthem band, not so much.  Here’s hoping their second full-length album, Big Bold Letters (released last week and next on my review list) will be more in line with the former than the latter.

BREAKDOWN

PROS: Putting the power and pop back in powerpop, effectively bringing the whole genre back!  “Vermont,” “Dearest Drew,” “There You Are” and “To Be Quite Honest” rock!

CONS: They’re not as good at slow, deep emotional acoustic songs.  If that’s your thing, though, check out “Phantom Rider,” “Operation: Eyes Closed” and “Have You Ever Had One of Those Days?”

RATING: 7/10 (Mixed between great and disappointing songs)

SOUNDS LIKE: Apparently they sound like Element 101, though I’ve never heard them.  I heard similarities to latter-day Save Ferris, the Dance Hall Crashers, Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, Paramore, and Rosematter.  Oh, and just for fun, here’s their cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” from the EP they released between albums.

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3 Responses

  1. Cruiserweight came before Paramore. If anything the so-called influence is the other way around.

  2. Good to know! I didn’t like to make the comparison to begin with (I don’t think they sound all that similar) but I’m happy to hear that they couldn’t have been ripping off Paramore’s sound by any stretch of the imagination.

  3. […] the professional world is strikingly similar beneath the surface. Like Cruiserweight says, “Everything is high school.” With that in mind, I’m pleased to bring to your attention the best piece of YA […]

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