By Dustin Blumhagen
From the frozen wasteland of Edmonton, Alberta comes fresh new pop punk group Nothing Gold Can Stay. With a raw sound that blends emo and punk sounds with heartfelt lyrics, they immediately stand out as one of the most exciting groups to enter the scene from Canada. As Pure Noise Records snaps up groups like Seaway and Like Pacific, it seems like there may finally be some appreciation for the music of the north. But bands from Ontario have traditionally had an easier time breaking through in the U.S. due to their geographical location. Still, the fact remains that the greatest Canadian punk bands have come from the prairies (Chixdiggit, Propagandhi, SNFU), so it seems fitting to acknowledge that Nothing Gold Can Stay easily outshine all of their peers in the currently oversaturated pop punk scene.
Staying true to the recent trend of expanding musical territory in the pop punk scene, Familiar Faces bears little resemblance to the straightforward bubblegum punk made famous by Ramones. Instead, their sound sits somewhere between the gritty hardcore and skate punk influenced pop punk of Living With Lions and the literary emo blend made popular by The Wonder Years. The brief lead track What’s Left of Us Now? introduces the softer side of the group, with a melodic intro that eases the listener into the album. At times, there are echoes of grunge that add depth to the tracks. On No Place Like It the music takes on a rougher edge with plenty of 90’s style, although the sweet vocals ensure that the song stays rooted in pop punk. Lead single Everything I Ever Loved is a solid track that expands this sound further, increasing the tempo and adding in soaring vocals. The guys delve into easycore on All That I Hate, with gang vocals and a heavier sound, although once again the lead vocals are sweet enough to contrast. On the title track, they switch tempos effectively, alternating between aggressive punk and pop sing-alongs with organ accompaniment. While the EP is frustratingly short at only six tracks, the acoustic version of Everything I Ever Loved provides a suitable wrap up to the album. After the shifting musical explorations found on the rest of the album, this allows for a mellow reprieve. The song is well written and the simple arrangement allows for attention to focus to the structure and lyrics.
If the band themselves had not stated that they took their name from the New Found Glory album, it would be easy to assume that they were fans of poet Robert Frost. This isn’t cookie cutter mall punk, nor is it watered down scene chasing music. The gritty edge to the music ensures that this won’t be lumped in with Neck Deep, even when the smooth vocals approach Patrick Stump territory. His ability to adopt a throaty growl at will adds a depth that is lacking in a lot of pop punk bands today. Despite the presumedly low budget that an independent band has to work with, this album sounds far superior to many of the current releases from bands with much higher profiles. Imagine what they could do with label support?
Nothing Gold Can Stay are an excellent new band who hail from a city far removed from the rest of the scene. Their geographic isolation is no doubt a hindrance to the band, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they have compiled what is so far the best pop punk release of the year.