Direct Hit!

Crown Of Nothing

Written by: PP on 22/04/2019 21:38:21

If there ever was an album ruined by glossy production, it is this one. "Crown Of Nothing", the fourth album by no-frills pop punkers Direct Hit!, fails to capture any of the strengths the band has previous been renowned for, such as their raw edge, roughened melodies or the chaotic stance that's been unique to them in the genre. In their place? A polished production work that irons out any means of energy, where even their signature opening chant "FUCK YOU, GET PUMPED!" is but a distant croon in the soundscape instead of the bold statement of pure energy about to come as it has been in the past.

Now, this progression started on 2016's "Wasted Mind", the first record where the band experimented with a cleaner sound, which immediately felt like a letdown compared to the brilliant "Brainless God" a few years prior. It's basically felt like Direct Hit's "New Wave", the Against Me! record that split their fan base into two. Looking back at the record today, it is actually "Crown Of Nothing" that is a better candidate for that comparison. Already on opener "Different Universe" and the subsequent pop punker "Welcome To Heaven" we are given a version of Direct Hit! that's lighter, more polished, and less energetic than in the past as the band explore new parts of their stylistic universe.

The PEARS-esque, 56-second "Pain/Boredom" owns the opposite argument with its injection of hardcore into the mix together with "Perfect Black", an awesome track bristling with energy thanks to its all-screamed vocals (again, PEARS style) that's as close to the old school Direct Hit! style as we get on this record. It's pure chaos, yet the melodic guitar lining and catchy riffs create a perfect balance between the throaty screaming and pop punk that has always been this band's biggest draw.

Unfortunately, tracks like these are few and far in between. "Altered States" is an excellent combination of pop punk hooks and the classic fast-paced Direct Hit! rhythms with a few groovy instrumental sections - this is the best of the 'clean' version of Direct Hit we hear on this record. But then we have songs like "Bad Answer", which has potential to be a great song with its smooth saxophone inclusions and all, but the vocals are produced out into oblivion and leave no lasting impact. Similarly, "Life In Hell" is just a slow snoozefest that's way too bright and clean for its own good.

It's all about a balance between the bright and the dark, but it's rare the band hits it spot on during "Crown Of Nothing". "You & I (Are Nothing But Lies)" is one of the rare gems that isn't overproduced to oblivion, featuring a darker tone and a good mix of clean/harsh vocals alongside a bouncy rhythm and a catchy chorus to boot. "Losing Faith" is another good example of the same, as is "Disassemble", but as track twelve and thirteen, they're just too far into the record in order to repair your perception of the record as a whole.

That said, the record isn't quite as bad as this review makes it sound. Particularly the latter third of the record is excellent, but it's plagued by a slow start and an inconsistent midway point, not to mention the overarching clean production that just isn't the right fit for a band like Direct Hit!. So to summarize: not bad, but could've been so much better.

7

Download: Altered States, Perfect Black, You & I (Are Nothing But Lies), Bliss Addiction, Disassemble
For the fans of: Against Me!, PEARS, The Dopamines
Listen: Facebook

Release date 26.10.2018
Fat Wreck Chords

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