Rebuilder cover art


Rock & Roll In America

Panic State Records

Rating: 3.5/5




It’s been awhile since a new band has drawn inspiration from MxPx, but that’s exactly the lineage that recent Boston upstart Rebuilder brings to mind.  Front man Sal Ellington sings but a stone throw away from the now classic Mike Herrera camp, and the melodic pull of fast flowing riffs fall right in line with the best of the mid-90’s skate-punk scene.  The most flattering divergence comes in Rebuilder’s inclusion of organist Rick Smith, whose contributions further each melody’s intent with a soft humming glow.  After a series of EP’s, the band has released their debut full length, Rock & Roll In America, and the result should be quick to turn heads.

All it should take is a quick listen to “Heart Attack’s” opening moments to sell Rebuilder’s merits.  The slow burning intro taps its way cautiously along a bed of long-drawn organ notes, Ellington’s low impact vocals building to a point of full-band eruption.  Chorus and verse build off one another as swelling harmonies recede into brief, lead-vocal intermissions.  It’s the type of performance that separates the boys (Neck Deep, Real Friends, All Time Low) from the men (Good Riddance, The Penske File, Junior Battles).  

A similar dichotomy culminates in the early melancholy-meets-angst of “Le Grand Fromage,” with the opening line being spoken as if from The Weakerthans before quickly morphing into a fully expressive, snapping drum beat confidently fitting the always welcome EpiFat mould.  “Skip amongst the telephone lines, skip a frequency to pass the time… anything’s better than New Jersey,” belts the band in one of their most vivid and relatable scenarios of breaking from the confines of one’s hometown.  The internal struggle of emerging adulthood – unwillingness to give up nostalgia and accept responsibilities – takes a foothold as a lasting theme most explicitly explored a track later in “Adults.”  In essence Rebuilder is a mature band feigning their youth and refusing to give up their spark.

Rock & Roll In America feels warm and nostalgic while retaining a strong sense present day relevance.  Songs like “The White Flag” and “American Dread” are original takes on old sounds that feel every bit as fleshed out and sincere as their inspirations when such tunage was brave new territory twenty years back.  That isn’t to say Rebuilder will leave as much impact on today’s listeners, but rather that there’s still room to return to basics in a scene that seems quick to forget its roots.