Album Review: We Call This Courage by We Call This Courage
This review was originally published in Dust-Up Magazine on November 3, 2017.
Just like fans are tired of hearing every new alt-rock band compared to either Nirvana or The Breeders depending on the gender of the lead singer, it’s long past time that we talk about new pop punk records without referring back to the genre’s fluid canon of classic bands or the mid-2000s in general.
We get it. They remind you of those bands, and they remind you of a specific time. It’s not just you. Honestly, I’m not even saying you should never reference those things, particularly if you have something new and fresh to say. Instead, I’m just pointing out how it seems the vast, vast, vast majority of reviews or recommendations about a pop punk band have to mention these things, dwarfing any instance of this for other genres of comparable or larger size.
I’m more than guilty too. Right now, I desperately want to squeeze in a Commit This To Memory reference (stuck the landing), as well as a joke about that ironic debate between Good Charlotte‘s “The Anthem” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” (awkward dismount). But by this point, using reference points about pop punk just feels hollow. We all know what it sounds like and pretty much what to expect when we pick up a record.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about We Call This Courage‘s debut self-titled EP, a six song collection that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but does construct it in an exciting fashion that makes you feel that it just might be different in some ways.
Length is the best aspect of this EP, with track lengths and tempos that feel true to the core of punk music in general. It’s an accessible sound for sure, but without the filler and inflation that goes on with readying a track for radio. Punchy and feverish, the songs feel incendiary with a short fuse, bolstered only by the damning lyrics. “Shred my innocence / With teeth of guilt / They’re sharper than mine / But I’ll die with a fight.” The subject matter isn’t necessarily dark and grim, but feels urgent and paramount, something that you’d expect from a band invoking courage in their name.
When the band drifts from expectations, they reveal their true talent and appeal, with a bevy of tricks and skills towering in the periphery of each song. On “A Teenage Dream,” they introduce stagger beats to shake things up, letting lyrical moments like “It seems like every time I find myself / I lose my mind” hit with extra impact. They’re not done there though, throwing in some backing vocals that are gritty and imperfect, running concurrent to what the role of a backing vocal is within music. It all gives off a tremendous feeling of dissonance in their music, something the guitar could never provide alone, and shifts the attention of the music from its melodic leanings to a more flawed design, like that of life itself.
You can distill deeper meaning like this from the other five songs on the record too, such as “Less Is More” being on the nose about the music’s appeal, and “One To Blame” relying on a different lyrical presence (guest vocalist Daniel Long) to hit its lofty mark. Nuanced and layered, it reaches beyond the catchy support the genre provides, allowing their music to exist in a grander scope that yields some pretty remarkable remarks. We could go back and re-frame this all with some familiar references, but with this music feeling so unfamiliar and inspiring, why bother?