Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Hextalls - Rock You to Sleep

The Hextalls are a pop punk band in the vein of the 1990's Lookout Records roster. This, of course, means that it's the best kind of pop punk out there. Short and (mostly) humorous songs about girls, parents, hockey and Kenny Rogers, is there anything else a pop punk kid could ask for?

Rock You to Sleep is the newest release from the Canadian quartet. I'm still somewhat of a new fan of the band, but I am aware that they started in 1998, broke up for awhile, then got back together in 2007. I haven't listened to any of their pre-break up music, so I can't honestly make an accurate comparison to how their music has changed since their inception, but I can say that this new album follows the exact same formula as the previous two (2008's Call It a Comeback and 2010's Get Smashed). It also follows the exact same formula as every Teenage Bottlerocket album, most Steinways songs, the first Dopamines album, tunes by the Adorkables and even the Copyrights and Lillingtons.

By that, I mean it is a shining example of the modern pop punk genre that has been so graciously dubbed, for better or for worse, "Ramones-core." This is not a bad thing, especially if you're a fan of the genre, because it means that you know exactly what the songs will sound like and if you'll enjoy them or not. However, it does mean that there is very little diversity of sounds found on the album, and the little that is there does not do a whole lot to make the album stand out above the rest. The best modern pop punk bands all do something with the three-chord formula to make their music stick out: The Ergs! aped the Descendents' style of oddball guitar chords mixed with incredible bass lines; The Copyrights (and Dear Landlord) know how to create vocal harmonies that almost put Bad Religion to shame; Teenage Bottlerocket has Kody from the Lillingtons and The Dopamines simply decided to just release Expect the Worst, the best pop punk album of the decade. The Hextalls will incorporate a piano on a few tracks and sing about Kenny Rogers, but that's not enough to really push them to the top of the game.On the tracks that do feature the piano, such as I Don't Want to Go Down to the Basement, Either (what a fun Ramones nod, although the song itself is about poop) and Pebbles the Happiest Chihuahua, the singer (who, despite the claims made in My Name Is Kenny Rogers, is not Kenny Rogers) kind of sounds like Ben Folds. While it does make the band slightly more unique, it's still not enough to really make them the next big thing in pop punk.

I realize I'm giving off the impression that this album is nothing special, but it is actually really good. The songs are catchy and will get stuck in your head even if you don't realize it. The band members have to be at least in their late 20's at this point, but they still sing about things that kids can relate to: "lead single" (I'm not sure if it's a proper single or it was just released as an album teaser) I Just Want to Sleep in the Treehouse features a very angry "Fuck you mom! And fuck you dad! You don't have a fuckin' clue about me!" and while the lyrics are meant to be silly and immature, I don't think there's a single person who wouldn't shout along with the band at a show. These songs are those kind of songs: light-hearted and fun to sing.

Rock You to Sleep is a fun album, regardless of the constant mentions of Kenny Rogers. The Hextalls might not be trying to take over the world, but they'll certainly take over your speakers. And isn't that what a good pop punk album is supposed to do?

Stream/buy it on bandcamp!

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