City Lights

The Way Things Should Be

Written by: TL on 26/12/2013 18:41:55

Considering how Ohio-quintet City Lights' debut of last year "In It To Win It" was a totally unashamed attempt to become a by-the-books pop-punk band, it should come as no surprise that little has had time to change between then and the recently released sophomore "The Way Things Should Be". Even the little that has changed shouldn't really surprise you either, and by that I refer to the fact that while "The Way Things Should Be" has suburban, photographic cover-art - just like the previous record and well, every other pop-punk record released these days - City Lights are actually taking a step away from the "realist pop-punk" of The Wonder Years and closer to a more polished, streamlined pop-punk sound alá newer New Found Glory records.

That's another way of saying that "The Way Things Should Be" is a textbook pop-punk production, polished and amplified to the point where there's a slight artificial sheen to the sharp, Jordan Pundik-ish lead vocals and where the rhythm guitar chords rumble with enough reverb to blur out the more delicate leads somewhat. The melodies may be bright and sentimental, but tenderness is only afforded a backseat to energy and bounciness as City Lights clearly aim directly at getting some pits started.

The good news is that while I can only really think of one song from City Lights' previous record, several of the cuts on "The Way Things Should Be" are now undeniably catchy. Chief among them is "See You At The Top" which flashes a single quality akin to "My Friends Over You" already on first listen. Its lyrics however, could work against it in the ears of some. For a supposedly friendly pop-punk record, lyrics such as "I'll see you at the top, you can trust me on this one!" and "Let me tell you a thing or two: We've been around the block a few times, don't you try to tell us we've been doing everything wrong" come out somewhat cocksure and "hostile hardcore" and irks me the wrong way, but I guess they'll go down well with anyone who's fed up with people in their life that don't have the faith in them they think they're due.

It's really a pretty similar deal to what you're getting when you put on a Man Overboard record. There's going to be lyrics that seem boneheaded, and others that seem plainly relateable, and at any point they'll be delivered with melodies and Blink-182-ish "Na-na-nah"s that make them hard to resist. Personally I just prefer a song like "Truth Is" with its embittered "heart turns to stone" lyrics, or the well-meaning anthem "The Dark Side" which gets a great call/response going before delivering the encouraging "Fear is a disease and hope is the only cure!".

In the department of miscellaneous observations, songs like "I'm Sick Of It" and "The Dark Side" seem to move out of the currently prevalent personal style of pop-punk and move towards the more moralizing writing of a band like Set Your Goals. Another example of this is "Idols", which showcases perhaps the most aggressive tone the band has recorded to date, and fans will likely be curious to see if this is a side to the band that will be explored more moving forward. We also get a visit from A Loss For Words' Matty Arsenault, who lends his recognizable vocals to the bridge of "Mistake", which I personally think only helps to reveal how typical City Lights' regular vocalist Oshie Bichar sounds.

Overall "The Way Things Should Be" is a record that's too focused in its songwriting and too well-produced to be written off, and as it does everything well that a pop-punk record should, I'd be lying if I didn't predict for the band to grow its presence in its home scene. Personally though, I find it a bit boring that the band only goes for par, and next to the poetic poignancy of The Wonder Years or at least the tender humility of Real Friends, the lyrical bravado City Lights exhibit here strikes me as just a tad too adolescent, even for pop-punk. The question really is though: Do you think good bands should shape pop-punk or do you think that pop-punk should shape good bands? If your answer is the latter of if you don't understand the difference, then "The Way Things Should Be" is likely to be a great record for you.


Download: The Dark Side, Truth Is, See You At The Top, I'm Sick Of It
For The Fans Of: New Found Glory, Man Overboard, Set Your Goals

Release Date 10.12.2013
InVogue Records

Related Items | How we score?
comments powered by Disqus


© Copyright MMXXI