Pop-punk is a genre that has stood the test of time and it continues to provide us with iconic bands. Bands which have not just defined the genre, but coloured it’s zeitgeist and shaped the course of music history – for every successful band is standing on the shoulders of it’s predecessors. So there is always an amount of influence, no doubt. The genre has exploded, and while it’s given us some gems, it’s also granted us a great deal of stagnancy and mediocrity too. The sheer quantity of carbon copy pop-punk bands these days has caused something of an identity crisis and it’s increasingly rare to find something outwardly and distinctly original. And into the fold step Sacramento’s Light The Way.
They are another who are anchored by those before them, except we’re reaching back for the most part in decades. With a sound heralding of the 90’s and 00’s, their debut full album False Memory Syndrome is something of a throwback to the likes of Yellowcard, The Offspring, Sum 41 and New Found Glory. Somewhere in the mix a fresher note can be detected though, but it’s a fleeting dash of Neck Deep, or a weight more associated with The Story So Far. Make no mistake though, the predominant sound is of old-school pop-punk.
If one thing is constant about pop-punk though, it’s singing about your friends, your parents and your hometown. Not much has changed here, opening intro Bruh leads straight into But My Mom Says I’m Cool. The distant, soaring chorus is straight out of a Yellowcard textbook, whereas the chalky, screechy style found in Thrillhouse could easily be mistaken for Deryck Whibley. Both songs are rampant homages, yet carry a finesse traceable to Knuckle Puck. The following interlude Put A Sock In It Roy is equally as Sum 41-esque for twenty-nine seconds of aimless, indeterminate rage.
The next three tracks continue to resurface old fragrances with wild changes of direction in between. Broken Hearts opts to change pace, as a bassline lead intro sets a Green Day vibe, to be unpredictably pivoted into a bouncy, synthetic style – the resulting sound resembles that of Asteria. Brain Rot is classic The Offspring but laced up with a hellish pop-punk blastbeat – again Knuckle Puck-ish. Veritas is a sore thumb though, it’s like a long-lost Linkin Park excerpt which is somewhere it doesn’t belong.
Lost The Handle and Still Edge work brilliantly as a pair, both including screeching guitar parts much like pop-punk newcomers Giants. The former is calmer and brighter vocally, a nod towards Mark Hoppus – but the drift to more recent pop-punk tones is more prominently explored on the latter, where there are relentlessly nauseous verses, drudging build ups, and harsh vocals.
Even though it’s late in the album, Light The Way show great awareness to reserve their trump card Holy Ghost for penultimate billing. After showcasing so much influence up to this point, this is their most original sound, which in effect translates influence directly into originality. This is sharply u-turned by Snapping Necks And Cashing Cheques which is outright New Found Glory with better vocals. It’s whingey in the right way, pop-punk at it’s finest and an excellent, summarising parting shot.
The familiarity of 90’s/00’s pop-punk is smartly fused with modern incarnations of the genre, so it’s a pleasant nostalgic journey for the mid-twenty audience yet one with surprising, serendipitous moments. A palpably deliberate sound affords something for pop-punk bands right across the board to access – and given how fans of the genre tend to pick and polarise, this means Light The Way are a marketable sound. False Memory Syndrome is a pre-meditated effort, a reprisal which takes the listener back and forth through essentially the entire pop-punk timeline and arrives at something which is carefully considered and original. This manifests as versatility rather than plagiarism, and in a genre which struggles immensely with homogeneity, Light The Way are a breath of fresh and familiar air: 10/10.
False Memory Syndrome is out 30th March via Indie Vision Music. Head over to their Facebook in the meantime.