Baltimore’s Heavyweights have got a pretty solid record on their hands with Keep Your Friends Close. It wasn’t long ago that Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low loudly declared that pop-punk will live forever. I sincerely hope that All Time Low’s brand of derivative drivel will die out, but Heavyweights’ new EP harks back to pop-punk’s golden age and gives it a fresh, enthusiastic shot to the heart.
Did you like Fenix TX or Allister back in 2002? Did you ever listen to Tsunami Bomb, or even Good Charlotte’s first album? Be prepared for a wave of nostalgia to hit you in the face hard as soon as the first bars of ‘It’s Not Pretty, But It’s Us’ start to play out. The Heavyweights EP could have come straight out of that scene and you wouldn’t know any different. Is this a bad thing? Hell no. Are you going to remember Heavyweights in ten years like those bands? Maybe not with this EP, but they’re definitely on to something. After an echoey riff, ‘It’s Not Pretty, But It’s Us’ launches a full pop assault – expect fast guitars, bouncing basslines and ridiculously infectious hooks. ‘Dior 999’ and ‘Bonfire’ are much of the same, absolutely chock-full of melody and malice with some really catchy choruses. Of course, it wouldn’t be a homage to 00’s pop-punk without a cheeky cameo, and Mike Hayden of Count To Four fame steps up to the plate in ‘Bunkbeds’. And then it ends on a banger of a ballad with ‘Anna Marie’, which starts out deceptively slow with a fantastic half-time breakdown before speeding up for a total thrill-ride. It’s an incredibly tight record, and Heavyweights have truly got their sound down just right.
Yet, as much as Heavyweights embrace pop-punk’s conventions and all its glories, Keep Your Friends Close has also inherited a few of its clichés. The EP’s still all about girls and how much they suck because they’re all heartbreakers, but I guess you write what you know. Most of that at least rhymes, which I’m down with, but it almost feels like Dave Heilker is singing the same song after a while with a different melody. There’s also very little variance in style between the tracks – possibly due to the fact that it’s an EP – and although each track is fantastic in isolation , it all starts to get a bit wearing after five fast-and-loud numbers.
All in all, it’d be great to see what Heavyweights can do with a full-length record, as they seem to be another one of those bands who perpetually come out with EPs. Keep Your Friends Close is plenty of fun, and although they’re not quite there yet, Heavyweights are onto a winner.
3.5 out of 5 high fives!