As easy as it is to criticise pop-punk for being either a watered-down pastiche of what the genre should be, or an assembly line to churn out negligible variations of the same band ad infinitum, it only takes a quick look to find real quality. As difficult as it may be to believe given what’s shoveled out of the apparent “top tier”, pop-punk bands doing vital, interesting thing and keeping the original spirit of the genre alive are out there, and in numerous cases, are a whole lot better than the big players. And that’s simply because they know that the best way to make good pop-punk is to actually factor the punk side into the equation as well as the pop, rather than dragging it along as a vestigial suffix with no purpose.
Leeds’ Eat Defeat have the right idea, wholeheartedly embracing the spark, vivacious pop energy that the genre was founded on, but paired with gritty, melodic punk directly from the early 2000s that actually has weight to it. And yes, that does seem like laying on the praise for what is essentially the bare minimum, but for as much of this genre feels so stifled and calculated, an album like I Think We’ll Be OK that takes a scruffier template with a considerable amount of oomph is a much more attractive alternative.
It’s incredibly simplistic, but Eat Defeat keep their dogged determination to the past for better or, very occasionally, for worse (the messy double-time drums on Shortcuts sound absolutely horrendous). Fortunately, it sounds great the majority of the time; there’s a rough-and-tumble quality to tracks like Smile and Scorched Earth, and it allows the greater benefits of this rougher brand of pop-punk to really shine. Even better, it all feels completely natural, both in terms of Andrew Summers’ retention of his native accent for a healthy dose of gruffness and gravel, and in the upkeep of tempo to keep the overall theme of finding even a shred of positivity in every situation as buyant as possible. Even the sub-minute-long Duvet Day, a track that could easily have been a prime candidate for throwaway material, feels rambunctious enough to belong here.
Granted, that all might be singing Eat Defeat’s praises a bit too vehemently; after all, they aren’t exactly pushing the boat out in a genre for whom extolling the virtues of togetherness and positivity are page one, line one material. But I Think We’ll Be OK is perhaps the first example of this in a while to be entirely believable, and for a relatively short but incessantly bright listen, there’s not many to put before this. Even if Eat Defeat will have to carve more of a defined niche for themselves to survive, what they’re doing right now is the exactly the way to go about it.
For fans of: WSTR, Belmont, ROAM
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘I Think We’ll Be OK’ by Eat Defeat is released on 3rd August on Bearded Punk Records.