Need a last-minute Christmas gift for yourself?
Look, Jews et al., any occasion you can come up with is fine — Scientologists have Freedom Day to look forward to on the 30th — just find a reason and make sure you’ve got The Whole Shebang ready to tap on New Year’s Eve. This is the 2011 release from Audiostrobelight, a bunch of energetic speakerbusters from Virginia Beach, and it is going to stay up all night with you. Remember fun? Remember loud, dance, party, and rock-out? Those guys remember you too, and they want you to buy Audiostrobelight’s album.
If you’re too busy to read this article, just check out the band’s own promo. (Also, quit your job, you’re wasting your life!) You’ll hear immediately what you can expect from The Whole Shebang: driving pop-punk that’s stuffed to the liner with hype, and not the empty kind. Every song has that classic tug-of-war between fast, danceable rock and half-time breakdowns when you get to jump up and down and pump your fist and taste the sweat flying off the girls and guys all around you. Did you see in the promo when they dropped the balloons on the audience, or the confetti and streamers? If you aren’t into that, we can’t be friends.
“Okay,” you say, “Mr. O.,” because you and I aren’t on a first-name basis, “but the fast electronic dance-rockcore pop-punkadelia scene came and went, and hasn’t been heard from since 2005! So why make such a big hubbub about one on-the-rise revivalist band?” Two reasons off the top of my head. First, I wasn’t done with that scene yet when it died. Second, Audiostrobelight fits into the leading edge of that movement, not the middle, and looks set to evolve it into something more expansive.
Just check out their line-up:
- Bass, guitar, guitar/keys, drums. (Ho-hum.)
- Dual vocalists. (Okay, standard fare for the genre.)
- Electric violin/mandolin. (Now we’re talking!)
And, since you mention Yellowcard, that’s an apt comparison. Some of these songs would’ve fit perfectly on Ocean Avenue, and Audiostrobelight also gives us plenty of Fall Out Boy’s Infinity on High, Cartel’s Chroma, and the rowdiest bits of Simple Plan’s No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls. But we also get rhythms that sample the escapist banner-waving of Less Than Jake’s ska-born Anthem and the alt-metal demolition drive of The Receiving End of Sirens’ Between the Heart and the Synapse. Variety is packaged in to keep your body parts moving four or five different ways every song, which adds significantly to The Whole Shebang‘s replay value. Plus, Yellowcard didn’t have a mandolin.
Combine this ability with the kind of live show that the band themselves describe as “ridiculously debaucherous,” and you can see how, on the strength of their State of the Art EP from 2009, these guys have developed a ravenous fan base who gives them a run for their money in passion. Along with Warped Tour credentials, Audiostrobelight has opened for Cobra Starship, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Anberlin, and the aforementioned Fall Out Boy, to name a few. While they’re not national headliners yet, take them seriously when they sing, in A Fifth of Feelgood, “This town won’t be the death of me!” (“This town” being VA Beach, which fits nicely when you remember how Less Than Jake was always repping Gainesville, FL.)
Hey, is that the first lyric I’ve dropped? Let’s open up these seven tracks. Because it’s always worth mentioning when a band starts their album with a song called You’re Not Funny, You Stupid Clown. It’s well positioned: when Audiostrobelight makes it big, you’ll be able to listen back to this one and hear “Give me the chance / Give me the time,” “We ain’t on top but we ain’t bottom,” and “We’re gonna reach for the stars / We’re gonna look past mountains.” I’d love to see that premonition come true.
A Fifth of Feelgood lays all their cards on the table. Keys are featured, the violin is used as an effective instrument and never a gimmick, and we get smacked in the face repeatedly by the JE-JUN, JE-JE-JE-JUN, JE-JUN in the bass and drums. They’re singing the same adolescent dreams that we were crooning along with half a decade ago. Whether they’re giving a friend a long hard send-off in Anchors Aweigh or begging for another chance with an “old flame” in Argyle, the constant in Audiostrobelight’s pushes and pleas is emotion. All the bands they learned from used to be called “emo,” didn’t they?
While Drop the Act is the most anthemic shout-along, those last two songs I mentioned might be my favorites. Argyle gives the band the chance to show that they’re perfectly capable of bringing things down and singing sweetly; they’re just happier when it’s all about “Going pound for pound / I bring the noise like your nightmare sounds.” And the album closes on a fade-out at the end of Anchors Aweigh with three layered vocal lines carrying three strands of feelings. Two-man harmonies assure “You’re better off without me” while the lead undercuts the sentiment with “I never want to trace this back / And let the record show I’m happy once again” and the gang vocals chant “Anchors aweigh, my friend!”
Audiostrobelight caught my attention by throwing back to beloved bands gone by, but what really hooked me was the depth of The Whole Shebang. Every turn on my iTunes shows new traces of a band I didn’t know they had in them. Excellent arrangements reward a careful listener, who will find every instrument playing a carefully crafted role to make you answer the call: “Let’s go / Let me see you put ’em up right now / Tonight we’re gonna have some fun!”
Do yourself a favor this holiday season and pick up a copy for yourself. The Whole Shebang also makes a great gift for anyone on your list who doesn’t suck.