Album: Colour Blind
One of the greatest things about the pop punk genre is the wild array of unique styles that come from blending the respective counterparts that comprise the genre’s namesake. On one end, there is fast, aggressive angst with just enough “pop” to lend a catchy chorus here and again. On the other end, there is the practical opposite: mellow, moody melancholy with spats of speed and sharpness to lend oomph to the occasional climax. Somewhere in the middle lies Seaway—a pop punk quintet from Oakville, Ontario. With their debut full length release, Hoser, Seaway established themselves as peppy and quirky—a quick band with an even quicker wit—using speedy and tongue-in-cheek lyricism to appeal to the pizza-and-khaki-loving masses. With Colour Blind, however, Seaway slow things down and appeal more to the “pop” end of the “pop-punk” equilibrium, relying less on speed and snark and more on catchy crooning—meeting with mixed results.
This isn’t to say that Seaway are a whole new band. Fans that fell in love with the relatable, refreshingly quick candor of “Shy Guys” or “Keep Your Stick on the Ice” from the Hoser days still have plenty of material to adore on Colour Blind. Take, for example, the album’s lead single, “Freak,” or the album’s opening number, “Slam.” Both feature percussionist Ken Taylor laying down fast, tight beats while bassist Adam Shoji races alongside. “Best Mistake” and “Big Deal” are more of the same: Taylor sets the pace with a quick snare and splashy cymbals while Shoji bounces hither and to with Taylor’s throbbing kick drum. Where Taylor is quick, it’s safe to bet that guitarists Patrick Carleton and Andrew Eichingeraren’t slacking either; this is especially true on the mile-per-minute “Big Deal,” or the enormously fun chorus to “Best Mistake.” In many ways, Colour Blind brings as much catchy, fast-paced fun as Hoser, the listener just has to look harder for it. When Taylor isn’t hammering away like a possessed jackhammer, and Carleton and Eichinger aren’t frantically strumming, they’re playing delicate, mellow music that serves as a subtle background for the band’s vocalist(s) to work their magic. “Growing Stale” and “Still Weird” are great examples of this—as is the album’s closing track, “Goon,” and the opening seconds of “Slam.” Here, Seaway sound as if they just finished binge-listening to Turnover or Basement’s discography, packing more tangible emotion into each strum and snare hit, leaving less room for (admittedly fun) melodramatic angst.
Seaway’s subtle change of pace is just as prominent in their vocal element as it is in their instrumentation. Frontman Ryan Locke (frequently assisted by Carleton) doesn’t expand on his previously established vocal range as much as he expands on the amount of time he spends in each time and style. “Slam,” and it’s outrageously fun and catchy “everything is cool, man” chorus line sees Locke half-shouting, half-singing—while “Goon” sees his soft, quiet croon in full effect. Meanwhile, faster-paced diddies like “Best Mistake” and “Freak” see a full variety of Locke’s talent, complimented by the welcome addition of Carleton’s catchy voice. The duo work brilliantly together, making songs like “Slam,” “Freak” and “Big Deal” splendid displays of pop punk vocal dynamics at their finest.
While there is no shortage of variety on Colour Blind, there is a shortage of truly memorable material. Seaway are simply at their best when they put subtlety aside and fly forward with fast-paced, raunchy and slightly gimmicky pop-punk. While some of the slower moments on their sophomore album are excellent (lookin’ at you, “Growing Stale”), the side of Seaway that shines on “Best Mistake” and “Slam” simply cannot be beat. Because their latest release places an emphasis on slower and more emotionally-charged song structures, even the “faster” tracks on the album can hardly hold pace with material found on Hoser. In itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: if you heard their debut and thought “man, those guys would be great if they just grew up a little,” then Colour Blind is the album for you. In many ways, it’s the logical continuation of their 2014 EP—for better or worse. The take-home message is that, no matter how you look at it, portions of Colour Blind at best lack punch—and at worst are simply lethargic—giving listeners searching for fun, frill-free and fast pop-punk experience something to be desired.
For Fans Of: Neck Deep, Handguns, Real Friends, Intervention, Citizen
By: Connor Welsh