The Ataris

Blue Skies, Broken Hearts...Next 12 Exits

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Possibly the most country-sounding record title in punk rock history, Blue Skies, Broken Hearts...Next 12 Exits proved to be the breakout disc for Santa Barbara punkers the Ataris. Sporting fine production thanks to Lagwagon's Joey Cape, this follow-up to the band's surprising debut solidified the Ataris' position among the leaders of late-'90s pop-punk. The tempos settle down a little on this 1999 release, giving songs like "I Won't Spend Another Night Alone" more of an alt-rock feel, but the tight compositions never stray too far from the group's post-revivalist, almost emo punk. When Cape takes a chance by adding a melodic cello line to the acoustic "My Hotel Year," the Ataris almost dare the punk community to question their integrity but, with its one-and-a-half-minute running time and furious guitar strumming, the track maintains the record's intensity and never panders to the listenership of complaint-saturated soft rock, which somehow became known as alternative in the mid-'90s. True to form, the Ataris give solid performances of first-rate pop-punk material on this, perhaps their best release.

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