There comes a time in everyone’s life where they encounter a rude awakening. The rose glasses of nostalgia are cast asunder and shattered—the façade of ignorant bliss and dependence on your parents or caregivers is torn down and you are thrust into the very real world. If you hadn’t familiarized yourself with the adage “sink or swim,” this process gives you a crash course. This is the end of adolescent naivety—a Disenchantment—and is the subject of American pop-punk heavyweights Handguns’ latest full length release. Following a maturation process that began on their debut full length, Angst, and fumbled on their hit-or-miss (and aptly named) follow up Life Lessons, Disenchantment is an awakening for the band not just on a lyrical level, but rather a content and songwriting level—as it is their most well-rounded, well-written and honest release since Angst—if not ever.
Fear not, fans of Handguns’ fast, fun and catchy instrumentation—Disenchantment might be a more mature view of the band, but it doesn’t remove the band from their roots. Still built on a foundation of flashy, fast drums that drop into cascades of bouncy, bold toms, Handguns’ musicianship remains a combination of wailing, riffy guitars that jump forth from a background of frantically strummed palm muted notes and soft, clean notes that serve as delicate interludes. Guitarists Brandon Paganoand Kyle Vaught do what they do best—combine fast, furiously fretted anthems with harmonized chords and clean tones to incredible effect. Right from the first pluck of “Life Lessons,” the duo do exactly what one would have expected from Handguns, spending more time with fast, fun fretwork a la Angst than their previous effort. “Carbon Copy Elitist” is an excellent example—opening with a crude and humorous sketch that dives into a sucker-punch 50 seconds of quick, catchy pop-punk that will have listeners of all ages fist-pumping along. With tracks like the aforementioned and “My Lowest Point”—along with others—feel reminiscent of Handguns’ youthful, energetic sound, “Bury Me” and “Conjuring My Youth” are slightly more moderate-paced and melancholy anthems that see Pagano and Vaught working with bassist CJ Wilson to create a fuller, more rounded sound that draws from Handguns’ more traditionally “emo” and mellow influences—giving Disenchanted variety and allowing the instrumentalists to flex their ability to write diversely without sacrificing quality.
While Pagano and Vaught are roaring on all cylinders—with assistance from Wilson, rumbling alongside—frontman Taylor Eby is back with his best lyricism since the poignant and catchy choruses that dotted Angst and Anywhere but Home. The album’s title track is an excellent example—with the crooning, chanted introduction fading brilliantly into the supremely infectious opening lines “just like a wrecking ball, swinging through a second story window: everything’s in pieces, and I just can’t believe it.” Likewise, “Bury Me” sees Eby slowing things down a notch, while including his penchant for the macabre and dramatic. In brief, Eby continues to be the perfect voice to fit Handguns’ musical style and growth, adapting his songwriting, singing and lyricism to reflect a group of individuals who have grown physically and emotionally since their teenage exploits highlighted throughout their past two releases.
If you’re like me, you fell in love with the youthful antics Handguns pulled on Angst, but didn’t quite keep up with the stories and sound of Life Lessons. If so, it would seem that the quartet have learned from their missteps and moved forward, jumping into post-adolescent maturity with Disenchanted. Rather than tracks focused on teenage love and friendships gone awry, the group focus on dealing with anxiety and directionlessness—and the havoc touring life wreaks upon serious relationships. While there are still melodramatic passages and portions that bring the listener’s mind back to high school—in the best ways possible. So while “mature” might not fit the band’s record in the context of the works of their peers, it fits Disenchanted to a tee in the context of their own releases, giving the listener a collection of anthems that ice the wounds and reduce the swelling inflicted by growing up—making it a relevant and relatable release for honestly, just about everyone.
For Fans Of: Neck Deep, Seaway, The Movielife, Sunny Day Real Estate, Knuckle Puck
By: Connor Welsh