Artist: The Home Team
Album: Better Off
Pop-punk is a tough genre to master, with almost all of the bands falling into one of two pitfalls. The first approximate 50% lean too heavily on the “pop” side, sounding like the musical equivalent to cotton candy—substanceless, sugary and probably not meant to be consumed over 12 years of age. The other 50%–while less likely to give you type two diabetes—are too firmly rooted in punk background to have a true mass-appeal, rivaling easycore when it comes to out-of-place moments of aggression and an almost barbaric overuse of power chords.
Then, there’s the fractional spare percent that get it right—that balance the sweetness of fluffy, fun pop with the savory and satisfying sting of the “punk” edge. The Home Team are one of those bands. Channeling elements of early Panic! At the Disco, All Time Low and Secondhand Serenade into a distinctly original and…feisty twist, the band’s debut full-length record, Better Off is one part angst, one part forlorn love song, one part turn-this-shit-up-and-hit-the-road anthem and three parts a record you absolutely don’t want to miss.
Built on a foundation comprised of a former deathcore drummer (Daniel Matson) and Ron Saireh’s bouncy, fun bass, Better Off is a lot more fun than the somewhat solemn name might imply. Matson and Saireh’s dynamism is stellar, giving each track an incredible base from which to blossom from—be it “She’s Quiet,” and its multifaceted nature or “Fashion Forward,” a cut that sounds like it could have been a B-side from P!ATD’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, The Home Team have no shortage of things to keep the listener hooked—and it starts with Matson and Saireh. However talented they are, they’re still far from the only appeal to this Seattle-based quintet. Guitarists John Baran and Ryan Murgatroyd make damn sure of that, letting loose with songs that are frantic and headstrong (“Wade In” or “Fashion Forward”) or more tactful and almost ballad-like (“She’s Quiet,” as well as many tracks that populate the middle portion of the album). Baran and Murgatroyd are fun but inventive, adding elements of post-hardcore into their otherwise 50/50 pop/punk mixture to create something fun and catchy but still holding onto a subtle, sharp edge. Cuts like “Since We Fell Apart” do just that—cut—staying stuck in the listener’s head from the very second the “play” button is pressed. In this fashion, the band balance an aggressive, slicing sense of headstrong energy with something more universally palatable and easy on the ears.
Brian Butcher—who, by all means, should be fronting a slam band with that last name—is the frontman and vocal personality to Better Off, and he does an excellent job at it. While the first couple hits from Better Off are quick, super catchy and energetic as all hell (“Fashion Forward” especially), that’s only one side of Butcher’s beautiful voice and lyrical prowess. Other songs—like “Waiting Game” and “Since We Fell Apart” are energetic, sure, but a little more bent on crafting an ear-catching hook that grows into an immersive and engaging track. Meanwhile, “She’s Quiet” and a select few other deeper cuts from The Home Team’s debut full-length are meant not to show off Butcher’s endurance, range or energy but his ability to write relatable and meaningful lyrics that are crooned delicately enough to slide into the listener’s ears like butter, but poignant enough to shake them down to the core of their being.
The Home Team’s first label full length is prodigal in it’s sprawling variety and intricate writing both. Better Off is a powerful record that manages to be a fun, care-free summer hit and a deeper, more introspective experience for cooler, lonely autumn nights. Angsty without being overdone—catchy, but not tooth-rotting, too-fluffy and sugar-coated, The Home Team are an endearing act that will drive fans of pop-punk crazy, and convert some skeptics all at the same time.
For Fans Of: Panic! At The Disco, Neck Deep, WSTR
By: Connor Welsh