Secret Weapon

Written by: PP on 21/08/2007 02:37:37

Mxpx belong to that group of 90s punk bands who helped to shape and influence the third and fourth wave of pop punk bands, like Fall Out Boy and Hit The Lights to name a few. They are also one of those bands that has changed very little since their initial inception. Fair enough, they had their share of hardcore in their music in the mid nineties, when their records were garage-quality, they didn't know how to sing properly and there was plenty of speed in their rough-edged guitars. You could say they were one foot in the skate punk scene and another in the pop punk scene. But since then, they've focused on writing sugarcoated three-chord pop punk songs that vary from the balladic to the power-poppish, a formula which has sold them hundreds of thousands of records throughout their career. Personally, I've always cherished their early records the most, because those were the ones I grew up with. Their mid-career pop punk efforts, that many others regard as classics, such as "Life In General" and "The Ever Passing Moment", I never became as good friends with. But 2005's "Panic" was another story, and it quickly became one of my favorite punk albums of that year. So the question that remains, and the reason all of you are surely reading this review, is that what do I think about the new one "Secret Weapon"?

Well, I'll tell you what. I think it's needless to say that after 15 years of being in a band, they aren't going to change now, so I'm on safe waters when I'll declare it to sound not much different from their post 1995 albums. It's still got the same sweet melodies and hooks, and Mike Herrera still sounds as youthful as he always has on the vocals. However, one difference prevails; the mood. Whereas much of "Panic" was light-hearted pop punk with infectious choruses, "Secret Weapon" has portions where the atmosphere is surprisingly dark on the Mxpx standards. You can tell it straight away from the guitars of the title track, which aren't as bright and upbeat as you would've expected, and sound more like something you could find on a Bad Religion record.

Glimpses of the happier powerpop are present; "Here's To The Life" is vintage Mxpx with its silent power-chords behind a strong verse, and "Drowning"'s choruses are surely something out of the wet dreams of pop punk fans. But it's just not enough for me.

At 16 songs, there is just too much quantity and too little quality. Having listened to the album almost ten times through now, the only choruses that have caught onto me are "Drowning", "Secret Weapon" and "Shut It Down". The rest I wouldn't even be able to name if quizzed at a game show. But then again, I do have a strange relationship with the band. Some of their songs push all the right buttons for me, while some just don't do it at all. "Secret Weapon" belongs to the latter for me. But don't get me wrong, they are still writing as solid pop punk as ever, that isn't as polished in production like the bands they influenced. If you are still reading this review, chances are that it is already on your list of "albums to get in 2007" anyway, so you can make up your own mind. But if you weren't a fan of Mxpx in the past, "Secret Weapon" isn't going to convert you.


Download: Drowning, Secret Weapon, Shut It Down
For the fans of: No Use For A Name, The Ataris, Lagwagon, Midtown
Listen: Myspace

Release date 17.07.2007
Tooth & Nail Records

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