Pop punk is growing up. The new school are bringing in genuine emotion and lived experience, singing about mental health and other, often progressive societal issues. The old school, bands like blink-182, aren’t bothering to keep up, instead relying on juvenility to keep a young fanbase happy. It’s not uncommon for older pop punk bands to do this. Harking back to the halcyon days of chasing girls, smoking weed, and fart jokes is almost like reliving times gone by. James Dewees (AKA Reggie and the Full Effect), however, seems to be embracing growing up.
41, named appropriately for their singer’s age, is the seventh studio album from Reggie and the Full Effect, the side project-cum-alter ego of The Get Up Kids keyboardist James Dewees. Having survived the early 2000s age of pop punk, and in fact fully embracing it, Dewees has decided that now is the time for Reggie to grow up. Don’t fret, however. He’s not quite in sweater vests and slippers yet.
The album opens with a short intro track, ‘il Sniffy Incontra’, singing about how Reggie looks tired so he should do some “sniffy”. Oddly enough, this doesn’t set the precedent for 41, which sees Dewees explore more mature topics. Maturity has gifted Dewees with the life experience to be able to write about classic pop punk topics like heartbreak through a wise lens. This is present on tracks like ‘Alone Again’ and ‘The Horrible Year’, both of which have the familiar style of Reggie and the Full Effect while adopting this more aged style.
While this makes for a much more relatable album for Reggie’s now older fanbase, it never lasts long. Across the fourteen tracks, there’s never really more than four songs before it gets all silly again. ‘Karate School’, ‘Channing Tatum Space Rollerblading Montage Music’, and ‘Trap(ing) Music’ all leave a slightly confusing taste in the mouth after derailing what would otherwise be a satisfying album. The latter of these is more of a parody than anything, lampooning the current rise of trap artists, offsetting it with Finnish metal music. It might work for some people, but the presence of this, as well as other comedy tracks just doesn’t sit right.
Musically, 41 is as layered as any other Reggie album, with keys and synths playing a massive part as they’re woven in amongst the palm muted power chords and 4/4 choruses. As a throwback, it’s fantastic, but there’s little chance of it having a lasting impact.
Ultimately, 41 seems a little bloated. It’s far from a high concept album, but there’s certainly a running theme of ageing. It’s an interesting perspective to listen to, but it’s all undermined by those comedy tracks. Losing them would perhaps create a more concise, emotionally impactful album, much like Dewees other band, The Get Up Kids.
At any rate, 41 should sit well with the fans who have kept the project going for the last twenty years.
41 is out 23rd February on Pure Noise Records.