Young New England

Written by: DR on 27/05/2013 09:42:14

Transit have always looked to evolve. Having started out with and gradually perfected an off-kilter, rough-around-the-edges pop punk sound on early records, the band then began to experiment with the "Something Left Behind" and "Promise Nothing" releases. These showed not only a sound far removed from pop punk, but one more expansive and thought-out than anything they had previously created. Their creativity was to come to a peak on "Listen & Forgive", their third LP and magnum opus. It effortlessly recalled the classic emo sound of the late 90s along with their more familiar pop punk sensibilities to universal acclaim, thus marking another step closer to 'seminal' status for this quintet from Boston.

That "Young New England", Transit's fourth LP, is another change in sound should come as a surprise to nobody. We've come to expect Transit to venture outside of their comfort zone in search of different sounds and influences. Importantly, though, they've progressed as artists, arguably even out of their 'scene', while maintaining a consistent level of quality. Now we know a Transit record will be different, but we also know it's going to be good. Or so we thought.

Instead of expanding on the emo sound of "Listen & Forgive", Transit have set out to create a sprightly, straight-forward pop rock record largely centred around the theme of Boston. The different sound is expected, but no fan could have predicted just how poor this record would be. It's the kind of album that should have become the soundtrack to our summer - it's full of would-be huge choruses and sentiments of nostalgia and pleas for affection - but it's so underdeveloped, misguided and ultimately bland that it will rank as one of the most forgettable records of 2013 rather than the one to which we create life-long memories.

The opening two songs, "Nothing Lasts Forever" and "Second To The Right", are certainly catchy and energetic, but the lyrics contain about as much as depth as any disposable pop song. Their respective choruses of "I drove through the front yard / I parked on the bridge / I saw the coastline like I never did / I thought nothing lasts forever" and "I can't be your shelter / Can't be your home / Can't be the one to call your own / That silver star second to right won't shine again a second time" have absolutely no weight; they're just generic platitudes offering no significant insight into the mind of Joe Boynton, who is usually one of the more poignant and remarkable lyricists in the scene. There's no denying the songs are infectious, despite a lot of the instrumentation's energy getting lost amid the horrid production, but they pale in comparison to even the weaker efforts of Transit's past work. Yet, incredibly, they are among the stronger songs on the album because they are at least catchy enough to stick with you.

As an album, though, "Young New England" is awash with problems not simply offset with a mildly catchy chorus. One of the biggest and more immediate of these is the production. Simply put, this record sounds like a recording of a recording. From the first time you listen to it through headphones you'll notice how insipid, lifeless and hazy everything sounds, and even how there are basic errors that should have been ironed out long before this record was even considered for release. Around the 2:40 mark in "So Long, So Long" there is a noticeable glitch-like drop in volume (the likes of which I've never heard in a professionally recorded song before), the chorus of "Bright Lights, Dark Shadows" needs cleaning up as it sounds like Boynton is asking us if we can "masturbate if we don't believe in it" (it's supposed to be "mask the pain"), and the vocals in "Hang It Up" sound weird and effected in a manner that makes Boynton sound surprisingly amateurish.

But if we were to look past the spotty mixing and mastering, we still never feel producer Ted Hutt and Transit are ever the right fit for each other. Transit were deliberately going for a more 'loose' and 'raw' sound, which is probably why they opted for a seasoned punk producer in Hutt (who has previously done excellent work with bands like Flogging Molly, The Bouncing Souls and Dropkick Murphys, and phenomenal work with The Gaslight Anthem and The Horrible Crowes). However, members are under-utilized here, misused or not emphasized enough, making it feel like he and the band are never on the same page. We know that Daniel Frazier is a talented drummer because we've heard it in the previous records, but he's anonymous here; we know that Tim Landers and Torre Cioffi are imaginative, wonderful guitarists capable of seamlessly swinging songs between gorgeous wandering guitar lines and pulsating up-tempo chord progressions, but they are largely buried here. Vocalist Joe Boynton was always the right fit for Transit, despite never being a gifted singer. But here, for the most part, he sounds more like he's mumbling, talking, has stumbled in from a karaoke bar down the street, or just not polished enough, resulting in a stark lack of remarkable vocal melodies.

And then there are songs that are just poorly conceived and/or executed. The title-track, in an attempt to simultaneously reflect the drinking culture and community spirit of the city, has a group-warbled chorus of "If you're too drunk to walk along the streets of cobblestone / You know Boston never drinks alone", but it's so awkward that it sounds like an advert for beer. "Weathered Souls" has a recurring refrain of "For the weathered souls know the storm's not forgotten / Left to hearts on the north shore of Boston / Grow up, grown on, but don't be forgotten", but it's so aimless that it feels forced. "Thanks For Nothing" and "Don't Go, Don't Stray" both over-use the "woah" for no reason other than to fill gaps, and "Hazy" is so awfully lacking in energy that it can only be described as lazy. A song like "Sleep" does have promise in its chorus and the Tim/Joe vocal dynamic (another great element of their sound severely lacking here). On its own it could be considered a solid song, but like the few brighter moments of the record it gets lost amid the dross.

Some of these new songs will probably work well live. Some of these songs, taken individually and not in the context of the record, probably work fairly well then, too. There are moments of promise throughout indicating the Transit we know and love is still in there somewhere, but they are smothered by the many faults of the production, the vocals or the song-writing. Although Transit have proven their ability and earned their fans' faith on past releases - some of which are among the finest records released in the pop punk scene, even if they can no longer be called a 'pop punk' band - there's just nothing here to keep you hooked. What should have been another step closer to 'seminal' status for Transit, a band typically famed for their progression, is instead a work so ill-conceived that it can only be dubbed as a dramatic regression. Ultimately, the only thing left to take away from "Young New England", however trite or uninspiring the message may be, is that nothing - not even a fall from grace such as this - can last forever.


Download: Nothing Lasts Forever, Second To The Right, Sleep
For The Fans of: Jimmy Eat World, Reliant K, Taking Back Sunday's "New Again"
Listen: Facebook

Release Date 02.04.2013
Rise Records

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