Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reach For the Sun - The Dangerous Summer (SUMMER 2009)

Reach for the Sun

The Dangerous Summer
Hopeless Records.

SCQ Rating: 77%

It’s somewhat disheartening when you find a bright young band and all the press they’re garnering is strictly from emo websites. Nothing against their writer’s merits – I’m sure they’re a well-articulated bunch – but attaching their pride of emo to The Dangerous Summer isn’t really helping the band. Labels are a drag, oftentimes misguiding and detracting listeners who actually take such superficial categorizations seriously, while the people who get hurt are usually the same cool folks who dreamt of taking their garage band on the road. Long has SCQ lamented the effect of such labels (art-rock, Intelligent Dance Music, other nonsense…) while carefully avoiding emo; the greatest offender. Among the most flighty of accusations, emo is the kind of thing I’ve ignored because truthfully, the majority of artists I dig have never been associated with it. As far as I’m concerned, what divides a rock record from an emo record comes down to conviction. I’m familiar with the pose-striking nature of most emo artists – long-sleeved, make-up clad and heartbroken to the point of suicide-exploitation – and I’m aware that a certain percentage of thirteen year olds are thrilled with it. That’s great. Thankfully, nothing about that scene has anything to do with The Dangerous Summer, whose new disc, Reach for the Sun, is a powerful blend of radio-worthy rock that melds Stephan Jenkins’ vocal delivery to Jimmy Eat World’s crushing melodics.

Standout tracks are littered generously throughout but what binds each highlight is the vocal power of AJ Perdomo, who regularly trades brooding reflections for speaker-blown bellows with equal confidence. Both ends of his throaty spectrum are on display in ‘Northern Lights’, capturing all the grit and pitch-perfect details of a relationship on the outs. It’s also a rare case where The Dangerous Summer (backed by Cody Payne, Bryan Czap and Tyler Minsberg) leash up their high-energy pop hooks, contrasting how propulsive the majority of Reach For the Sun is. From the mission-statement of ‘Where I Want to Be’, this Maryland quartet singlehandedly keep the dated union of pop-rock relevant with anthemic choruses and endless hooks (‘Surfaced’, ‘This Is War’). In fact The Dangerous Summer are so adept with their sound, my first listens nearly verged on the side of overload; tracks began to sound too similar, Perdomo sang about his head too much. Yet with further listens Reach for the Sun clicks, with each song proving itself not only enjoyable but integral to this twelve song collection.

How anyone can reduce such young talent to the vilified ranks of emo-hood either isn’t listening to the record or is hung up on how young these guys really are. No doubt and no surprise: all four members of The Dangerous Summer hover around the tender age of twenty. It’s audible, if only in the odd lyric, but nonetheless impressive to think that this band can already rival their idols on a level playing-field. Where they’ll go from here is a theoretical that makes me squirm, having watched other likeminded bands like the Get Up Kids recycle themselves against the brick-wall otherwise known as pop-punk. Either way, The Dangerous Summer have made a believer of me and released one hell of a summer album.

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