Going to Project Revise in 2020 brings up distinct memories of the early 2010s, where local scenes were flooded with pop-punk bands with big dreams of riding the then-cresting UK wave, only to have their attempts scuppered by having no distinguishing features of their own. That might be a bit of preemptive judgement, but it’s a period in the genre’s history that fledgling pop-punk bands will likely find impossible to escape. And it’s not like Project Revise are deviating much from that clear-cut mould; a debut EP without too much traction and a couple of support slots are more or less the norm, though actually being able to make it past that does seem to be what sets this band in particular apart. The expanded catchment area certainly helps, for one, and making it past their very first release is a milestone that a lot of similar bands don’t even get to. Regardless of how it turns out, Songs From The Shed is a rare next step that bands of this small scale rarely get to, and getting there in the first place deserves some credit on its own.
But in viewing Songs From The Shed from a much wider lens, it’s clear that Project Revise still have a lot to do before they hit any sort of height. This is definitely an improvement from their older material by virtue of shaking away some of the band’s more amateurish affectations, but they aren’t all gone, and that disconnect can be pretty crucial in deciding how well this EP holds up under scrutiny. As for an answer to that, there’s worse pop-punk out there, and Project Revise’s material definitely comes from a place of sincerity, but the glimpses of bigger things from Project Revise are extremely fleeting.
Where Songs From The Shed does feel like an unequivocal step up, though, is in the overall sound and production, where the hallmarks of producer Dave Draper’s work with the likes of Eat Defeat and Hundred Reasons’ Colin Doran can be more clearly felt. There’s the similar splitting of chunkier pop-punk and robust alt-rock that’s akin to a band like Junior in its sense of rumble, but isn’t too overweight or sluggish in its progressions. A track like Just A Story has a more classic pop-punk feel in its surging pace, and when that can be suitably maintained throughout and steer clear anything too clean (the guitar tone is reminiscent of Four Year Strong in places and that’s a huge benefit), there’s a workable technique in there. But then there’s the chasmic disparity in the vocals, and while it’s hardly a necessity to be a good singer in pop-punk, there’s such a flatness to both Chris Tamburro and Rich Marshall’s performances that doesn’t feel integrated into the mix when they’re so much louder than they should be and have their harmonies so sloppily arranged on a track like Throw It Away. It’s why the notion of Project Revise falling into unseasoned, local band tropes is so prominent; they’re moving away from them, sure, but there’s still a lack of refinement that’s a pretty difficult barrier to scale in terms of enjoyment.
It doesn’t help when Project Revise are still so clearly swayed in the direction of their influences, though to their credit, there’s a bit more variation from the same rotation of three bands that provide the basis for most pop-punk. blink-182 still make a noticeable appearance in the formula (the generally unnecessary joke song Giraffes On Stilts is evidence for that on its own), but the thicker, slightly heavier rhythms bring to mind bands like Millencolin or even hints of NOFX for something more traditionally punk-sounding. On the other hand though, it’s not as though Project Revise are really doing anything with those influences besides draping them across their own frameworks, and even then, the likes of Hide Yourself and Just A Story dig pretty deeply into some very recognisable pop-punk wells lyrically. Again, it’s not a release that’s very mobile in what it’s trying to do, particularly when the hooks cap out at decent without much of the punchiness that pop-punk often relies on.
It can feel like Songs From The Shed is still a couple of drafts away from being ready to ship at times. It’s certainly the next step in Project Revise solidifying where they’re at, but it’s not very big one, and there’s still a clear distance ahead of them that they’re still yet to conquer. And yet, it does need to be stressed, apart from issues with the mix balancing that really should be rectified, there’s nothing too wrong here, even if it can be difficult to see what’s all that truly special either. The current scene around them might have diminished, but in a genre like pop-punk that’s still difficult to make it in, Songs From The Shed doesn’t offer what could be any sort of breakthrough. It just kind of feels there, and that’s probably the best way to describe Project Revise themselves as well.
For fans of: blink-182, Eat Defeat, Junior
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Songs From The Shed’ by Project Revise is released on 17th April.