Album Review: Kinda Funny by Flight Club
This review was originally published in Dust-Up Magazine on June 2, 2017.
There’s something about the approach Flight Club has to pop punk that feels bigger than the genre itself. For longtime fans of that style, their new EP Kinda Funny will be instantly gratifying as it offers up five choice songs that are memorably great in any time or context. For fans who have a more cursory appreciation of the rambunctious sound, the EP offers up enough subtleties and divergent sections to show that this isn’t the same pop punk you’ve been hearing since 2000. And for those with just an aversion to the words “pop” and “punk” being so close together in a sentence… well, it’s hard to believe anything will change your mind, but give Kinda Funny a chance and you might be surprised at just how close you come.
Kinda Funny is the first EP for Flight Club since their 2015 self-release and it’s a remarkable step forward for the band as they consolidate all of their influences into a cohesive sound, a sound with enough room still for musical exploration within each song. There’s no doubt that this is a pop punk release by a pop punk band, but with blues and classic rock moments sprinkled throughout the seventeen minute run-time, as well as several other notable styles, they’ve transformed their sound into something far more sweeping and striking than most of their contemporaries and predecessors. It’d be easy for this approach to end up distracted and messy, but with robust songwriting and producer Alan Day of Four Year Strong behind the scenes, the EP effortlessly congeals into a solitary representation of who and what Flight Club exactly is: a skilled rock band endowed with the spirit of pop punk and the mind of every other great rock genre.
To some, the highlight of the record will be “Fifty Shades Of Fine,” a blistering ride through the world of pop punk that showcases all of its endearing elements. Vocal lines that float away in echoes before the music crashes in. Grooves versatile enough to fit head-bobbing, swaying, moshing, or even pogoing. Lyrics that easily shift from youthful angst (“Been getting sick of second guessing / And feeling so damn nervous all the time”) to endlessly quotable tag lines (“Girl you’re fifty fucking shades of fine”). Even a sleek music video that’s just plain fun. If this was released in the mid-2000s, it’d be on thousands of burnt CD-Rs with pithy sharpie titles, sandwiched in between songs like “Ocean Avenue” and “My Friends Over You.” Once the nostalgia washes over you though, you start to pick up on little things here and there that lets you hear the song with modern clarity. The feverish hard rock outro, the amazingly restless drums, and even the decision to let the music and vocals sit on the same level within the mix. This is music from a band that is clearly well-aware of the past, while still keeping a clear eye forward.
Like “Fifty Shades Of Fine,” the rest of the record has its own tricks and techniques that help Kinda Funny stand-out. The abrasive opening that instantly modernizes their sound. Vocals that trade off back and forth in a mutated version of call and response, sometimes even followed by impressive melodic runs where guitar and vocals almost join together as a single instrument. The breakdowns and transitions are a remarkable step-up too, something that could have come from the Four Year Strong presence, but also has to be attributed to the blues influence which binds some of the songs together much more efficiently and advantageously than the typical style would. As mentioned before though, it’s not just the blues influence that makes the record strong. “Wait Until I Get My Grade 10” weaves in the backing harmonies of doo-wop, bypassing the pop punk nostalgia and taking the sound all the way back to the American first wave origins where The Ramones were simply infusing ’50s bubblegum pop with distortion and swagger. Flight Club’s approach is not as heavy-handed as it was in the ’70s, but the approach is just as fresh and invigorating. What’s best about “Wait Until I Get My Grade 10” though is how they don’t exploit those backing harmonies and classic style. This is a song that could work just as effectively in a barbershop quartet setting, but they contort the structure and spirit in such a way that it feels as right at home within a pop punk context.
It’s weird to talk so much about subtle moments in relation to a pop punk record. Bands like Simple Plan and Sum 41 are hardly remembered fondly for musical stratagem on their records, but that’s just what you walk away from Kinda Funny thinking about and what makes it such a sterling release, especially since the band never comes close to ditching the pop punk aesthetic. Flight Club gives fans of the genre enough adolescent energy and wit to last a decade, but they also provide countless reasons for the musical spectrum to turn their ear and hear exactly what the Flight Club brand of pop punk is, and just how exceptional it is.