Every genre has a rotating platform of fresh, new leading lights who rise from seemingly nowhere and turn the whole genre upside down. Take Neck Deep with pop punk, for instance, who have been making waves ever since the release of their first EP and been a flagship band ever since. Pennsylvania quartet Handguns haven’t had this buzz about them, but have risen through the ranks with first two albums Angst and Life Lessons to become a more secondary pop punk band (compared to some other, more hyped about outfits), but a reliable one at that.
And on third album Disenchanted, it’s pretty much more of the same. And “the same” means probably the most generic pop punk ever. Any riff that springs to mind when you think of a pop punk one is probably on this album, along with a massive overuse of double-time drums, Taylor Eby’s saccharine, exaggerated American vocals, and no tempo slower than 100mph. This would all really grate if it was perhaps a new band just breaking into the scene. But it’s clear that Handguns have more than mastered their trade, and there are plenty of simply irresistible pop punk tracks on here. Take opener Self Portrait, for instance, which has a huge pop punk chorus, and combining lots of dynamic changes along with the basics, it’s a swooping rollercoaster ride of just what Handguns can do.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the record, and what sets the four-piece apart from other pop punk bands, is the lyrical theme underpinning every song. While the music is clearly made for a hot August day, the lyrics are darker, discussing inner demons of the band’s members. The likes of The Worst In Me and Low Spirits discuss this at length, while Bury Me‘s declaration of “pile up the dirt and just leave me here to die” or closer Recovery‘s intense end of “I’m the one to blame” followed by a flatline speak for themselves. It’s a brilliantly intriguing juxtaposition, and maybe even unexpected from Handguns.
The annoying thing about this album, though, is its total unwillingness to change. The aforementioned lyrical theme really shows how Handguns can add some depth to their sound, but musically there is absolutely no room to negotiate. Bury Me‘s double-time drums just feel like they’re being added for the sake of it, and Eby’s one-track vocals begin to vex after a while. Towards the end of Disenchanted, the songs begin to blur together because of this, and honestly it just seems like a bit of a waste. And fear not Handguns fans, their joking around is still making its way into their albums. The minute long Carbon Copy Elitist begins with a short skit about a Handguns concert before launching into the record’s fastest track, while the title track opens with a ‘funny’ faltering of the first note. Both do nothing but hinder the start of the two songs, and neither are really that funny.
If you hate pop punk you’re going to hate this album, as there’s nothing new here. But for genre fans, every common tell of a pop punk song is here, and there’s even clear influence from blink-182 and Sum 41 (in Low Spirits and Carbon Copy Elitist respectively). But the lyrics are what make this album an interesting listen, and if Handguns maybe branch out a bit more to match their lyrical content musically next time, then they should be on to a winner.
For fans of: Neck Deep, State Champs, Seaway
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Disenchanted’ by Handguns is released on 13th November on Pure Noise Records.