Ask any pop-punk fan who the genre’s most underrated bands are, and chances are A Loss For Words will get mentioned at least a few times. It’ll probably be even more common now that the Massachusetts quartet are due to split up, with one final album to cap off their fifteen-year-plus career. Thus we have Crises, the band’s fifth album that really does them no favours by being released in the post-Christmas, pre-New Year deadzone. While this may be the point as a parting shot that only the true diehards will catch wind of, it feels as though A Loss For Words are selling themselves short somewhat, especially considering that Crises is rather good, having more effort and passion put into it than a farewell album would often be presumed to have.
But with this being an objectively mature pop-punk album, Crises meets all the regulations that that particular branch of the genre possesses. There’s a grit and weight to Matty Arsenault’s voice that works well when the option to embrace the hardcore-styled route arises like on Georg Cantor, but whereas this can easily get stale, hardcore is either integrated very sparingly or by proxy, such as Comeback Kid frontman Andrew Neufeld’s guest spot on I Can Feel An Army In My Fist. Instead, Crises embraces the wistful fondness of a last album, and there’s a feeling of finality that forms its emotional core. There’s a happiness that runs through In Your Company and Lyme Regis, and even in the instances where it doesn’t feel like the issues talked about go unresolved, like finding solace in drinking on Existential Crisis At The Cask ‘n’ Flagon or having trouble letting go of a past relationship on SoCal, there’s a feeling of overall satisfaction that belies a mature viewpoint. It’s a similar feeling to the one Yellowcard’s self-titled final album incited, one that has reached a natural, rational endpoint that is warmly rounded off.
It’s just a shame that the same sort of experimentation or expansion hasn’t been carried out here. While Yellowcard designed their swansong release as a grand, widespread send-off, A Loss For Words take no such path on Crises, instead sticking to their regular, serviceable pop-punk sound. And while that’s nothing to really complain about on its own – tracks like Lyme Regis and Boston’s Wayward Son (Exit 6B) thrive when sticking to their melodic foundations – it feels smaller than would be ideal, both in terms of stake and scale. Comparing the two, Crises is probably the most sonically consistent, but there’s an unwelcome slightness to it that sees them stumble.
And with the fact that this is A Loss For Words’ final album, that unfortunately hints at a lack of longevity. But digging into the meat of the matter, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for the band. After all, it’s an album released in the final week of the year; if real pull was the goal, literally any other time would’ve been preferable. Rather, Crises feels like one final farewell to fans more than anything else, and it’s something they definitely pull off. It’s not perfect – nowhere near, in fact – but it’s good enough to ensure that A Loss For Words will definitely be missed.
For fans of: A Day To Remember, Hit The Lights, Set Your Goals
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Crises’ by A Loss For Words is released on 27th December on Rise Records.