The verdict? I can't stop spinning this CD. I find myself singing the hooks while getting dressed in the morning. A smile pops up every time I hear a clever lyric. They've done well and even slightly exceeded my expectations. They've got those elements of bands like Small Brown Bike with the full and warm rhythm guitar and the slightly hoarse yet melodic vocals, maybe some later Braid with the light and airy lead guitar here and there, and definitely some of that powerful Marathon drive as well. Jimmy's vocals go from throaty to clean in single verses to keep things interesting. His lyrics are often old hat for the style with lots of quarter-life crisis cliches, but there are plenty of clever one-liners and sharp observations throughout. The line that opens up the second song on the album, "Hollow Place", is infectious: "I've been driving with the rear-view mirror, who guessed it would be no clearer, it got me lost and now I'm late, the clock's dead on, no one to blame". It's also nice to see that the punk rock spirit shines through with some social critique in the song "Our Ballads". It's a smart tune about society's tendency to assign gender roles with lines like, "when I scream it isn't for machismo, not intimidation or gender segregation, I just needed more from the words I sang but you can't understand, so you're saying that a female only listens to ballads and love songs?, the girls I know wouldn't think so but according to you our songs should separate all the girls from the boys." The album closer which borders on power ballad, or modern rock soft to loud cliche, also borders on Dashboard Confessional wretchedness. It's a tough call but I don't skip it, probably due to the gritty elements that work throughout the record and keep it from falling off the edge into typical Alternative Press wimpy/schlocky tripe (yes, I know they've been featured in AP).
While I tend to stay away from other modern bands that PBC could call peers, they've got enough heart and soul to keep me listening. They may be on their way to filling clubs, but it's their roots firmly planted in the punk basements of the world that will keep them from drifting off into "guilty pleasure" territory.