Johnny Be Good

[rating:6/10]

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A few years back, I was running a concert just about every Friday night for about 3 months. There were several in Philly, a handful in Quakertown (the greater Allentown, PA area), and a couple of shows scattered in other Philadelphia ‘Burbs. Most of the shows went well, but the overall quality of the bands I was able to get varied. Some of the better bands made the experience a very good one. I had the opportunity to worked with some up and comers like Grace Gale, The Danger O’s, Mychildren Mybride, and The Stand In. I got to bring some smaller bands I had already loved through the area, including The Psalters, ¡Holler Wild Rose!, Mercury Radio Theater, and Miss Argentina. I even discovered a new found adoration of the live shows of two locals from the Philadelphia area, one was Philly based rockers Paper Tiger and the other was a pop-punk band based in the ‘Burbs that went by the name Straitlaced.

Straitlaced got a decent amount of coverage in local Philly music mag Origivation. They intrigued me, as everything I read about them said they were a talented group of younger guys who had amazing energy in their live show. I love good live music, so I shot the band an email. Ever since, I have had the pleasure of not only working with them live, but being sent recordings to listen to and review whenever they became available. A short time ago, they seemed to disappear and I just assumed that another great young band fell by the wayside like so many others before them… but I was wrong. I received an email that Straitlaced had a relocated to California, changed their name to Johnny One Match, and self-released a new EP. Not too long after, Unparadise came in the mail for me to check out and here’s a few of my thoughts and notes on Johnny One Match and the new EP.

As with their previous releases, the only major criticism is that the lack of great production has hurt their ability to capture how good a band they are live. Unparadise comes across a tad generic at times, but I suspect the production is sole culprit for this unfortunate critique. Shades of brilliance in structure and songwriting shine through at many points in merely 5 songs, proving to me that with better production and a bigger budget, Johnny One Match could hang with any of the pop-punk/emo-rock on alternative radio today.

Where are these shades of brilliance that evidence this claim? Here’s a song by song look at why Johnny One Match’s EP is worth a good listen and why we should expect much more to come from these young rockers:

Track 1: “I’ll Take My Time Waking Up”

The tempo change between the verses and chorus is well crafted and sounds very natural. The bridge after the second rendition of the chorus, slows the song down and brings in an old school emo breakdown complete with a following buildup that delivers with an emotional lament over a more chaotic, yet very melodic closing to the track.

Track 2: “Secret”

The guitar work is superb early in this track and is truly the element that, if highlighted, would have brought this song over the edge. The guitar solo is well produced and the rest of track from that point is top-notch. The rhythm section is also very tight on this track.

Track 3: “All Aboard She Said”

This track has “radio friendly” written all over it, even moreso than the other tracks. The chorus is partially sung in parts, with some decent vocal harmonies. I like the verse where everything drops out and it is only drums and vocals… it adds highlight on the lyrics and changes the song up a bit.

Track 4: “Live Love Fake”

The title alone is a stroke of brilliance. It is cryptic enough to hook you, yet seems to say so much. The first verse lures you in with a slow, melodic feel and lowly sung vocals. The vocal harmonies in the second verse are solid. The song remains a slower one, but grows in power and emotion, with a powerful chorus where the vocals are strained and even a bit screeched. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s what good emo sounds like. There is one point in this song that is both a plus and a minus… it is a kickass guitar solo that sounds out of place. The guitar solo is very 80’s power ballad, which is hard not to like but doesn’t fit the overall feel of the song. Again, the solo does demonstrate solid guitar work and talent.

Track 5: “Turn Away”

This is the most complete song on the EP, one that would need the least amount of tweaking. It is pretty straight ahead in the punk influenced alternative rock genre, complete with any metal guitar solo and a gang vocal bridge. This song brings in the best elements of the rest of the EP.

All said and done, the verdict on Unparadise is a simple, positive one. It is an EP with tons of promise that would instantly become something more with better production value. A little work on song writing and a bigger budget would make this an EP that would perk up the ears of just about any A&R rep.

~ by thepaintedman on July 10, 2008.

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