The Case For Mutiny!
By Eli Shively, Contributor
Pop punk really isn’t a music writers’ genre. It’s all simple chords and catchy hooks, paint-by-numbers songwriting and clichéd lyrics. There’s usually nothing to analyze musically nor thematically that goes deeper than what’s heard on the surface, and because of this it’s a little annoying at first to sit back and try to think of why any particular pop punk record is objectively great.
That is, at least, until the striking realization occurs that pop punk isn’t objectively great. It’s subjectively great. Good pop punk records aren’t special because of what you hear, they’re special because of how they make you feel. They work their way into your mind not solely through melodies and lyrics and sounds, but also through energy and passion. It’s a simple, almost barbaric feeling. It’s the way the human subconscious naturally reacts to someone playing something catchy as loud and fast as they can. It’s an exclamation point tacked on the end of an album title and a full-speed ahead mentality so focused it may fly right past you if you aren’t fully prepared. It’s Mutiny! by Set Your Goals.
Mutiny! was the first full-length release by the California “easycore” outfit, and it pretty much represents everything that has, is and will be great about the pop punk genre forever and ever. It’s a classic, it’s essential, and it’s a touchstone for thousands that grew up with stage dives and high fives and Warped Tour and skinny jeans and gang vocals. The songs are littered with shout-along choruses, politically charged rallying cries and prolonged sections of breakneck power chord madness, something the band would later tone down on This Will Be The Death Of Us and especially on the disappointing Burning At Both Ends. It is, possibly for lack of the exact term to describe it, raw.
Aside from all that, the rawness comes in part from small-label charm and production value as well as something that marks a lot of great debut albums — the feeling that the artists has so much to say, prove, and do, but so little time. The record flies out of the gate with “Work in Progress,” a track that is pretty much the structural epitome of getting the listener up to speed, and then never dials the energy or the aggression back one bit. Set Your Goals always had something important to say, and they never lacked the gumption to tell their audience to listen up. This confidence and poise appears on all their records, but Mutiny! shows them at their most ambitious, six bright-faced kids that somehow think they can change the world by shouting in unison over chugged breakdowns. It’s kind of endearing.
So when comparing Set Your Goals records, the choice is obvious — no collection of material showcases what makes them great as much as Mutiny! does. When you’re dealing with a genre that relies so much on youthful energy and unadulterated passion, why would anything but a band’s debut record be their best?
The Case For This Will Be the Death of Us
By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
We’re 10 months deep into this crap-shoot of a year and what do we have to show for it? Dead legends, droughts, the Olympics, Donald Trump and a new Dawes record. In these times of desperation, may we find joy in the little victories? Luckily for us, the 10 year anniversary tour of Set Your Goals’ debut, Mutiny!, is a heck of a victory; but let’s not get carried away by romanticism and only reminisce over their 2nd best album. Mutiny! might be bringing the poster-children of easycore back into our lives, but the band’s second release, This Will Be the Death of Us, still reigns king. Who ever said anything about a sophomore slump?
All respect to Mutiny! and the influence it left behind, but the learning curve between albums is evident. Set Your Goals greatest addition between albums, falls into the production field. Beefy drums and riffs that stink of summer give This Will be the Death of Us an unmistakable sound when compared to the rest of their discography.
The change in production comes as no surprise, as the album was overseen by renowned producer, Mike Green. Michael Ambrose’s snare has the perfect amount punch, which contrasts the thunderous toms and bass drums, creating a lively, fleshed-out backbeat.
Hidden throughout the album lays hints of anti-establishment and environmental lines. Case-in-point, in “The Few That Remain,” Jordan and Brown’s words are a paragon of rebellion. “Big dollars take the pressure off of hard times, but gluttony is a sin, and hunger will not let you in if you don’t get a grip. Use some self-help to control it.”
Not all songs portray the motif, however, the consistency across several key tracks makes Set Your Goals’ more serious lyrical content evident. Mutiny’s pirate theme was cheeky and amusing, although childish in comparison. Hearing the band dish on more complicated topics adds much more hype to the overall project.
What’s more, This Will Be the Death of Us, has a powerful guest-list, featuring Vinnie Caruana of I Am The Avalanche, Anthony Benedict of Baloni, Hayley Williams of Paramore, John Gula of Turmoil, and Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. Instead of using big names for the sake of audience recognition, Set Your Goals’ plays into each guest’s strength, allowing the featured artists’ to blend into the band’s sound rather than being placed on a pedestal.
Gula, in particular, absolutely desecrates the heaviest track on the album, Gaia Bleeds (Make Way For Man)”. Alongside him, Jordan and Brown produce what may be their best performance to date on this track, trading off loaded vocal-lines and making way (no pun intended) for Gual to tear into the middle of the song, leading the charge through a ferocious breakdown, leaving behind nothing but dust.
As for Mutiny? It may have paved the wave for easycore and countless pop-punk bands through the years, but This Will Be the Death of Us has cemented Set Your Goals in the hearts of millions of cult fans for years to come.