First to Leave

Forging a Future

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J. Robbins has to wonder sometimes. He's seen plenty in his years, after all -- leading Jawbox was enough to deservedly put him in a hall of fame, and the outpouring of love and support for him when his young son's disease was diagnosed says it all. But is this the fate that he deserves, producing and performing guest parts on an album from an utterly generic mall punk/emo/whatever band? Frankly, no. As for First to Leave, there isn't much to say about them or their Forging a Future album beyond noting that the arc that somehow ran from Rites of Spring and Operation Ivy to Green Day and blink-182 to the reign of Fall Out Boy as 2007's biggest American rock band means that all the formulae are now, at last, totally, utterly played out. There's nothing on this album, nothing, that hasn't been heard before, and the fact that one song is called "Revival (Starts and Ends)" is not enough for them to escape opprobrium, or perhaps even more appropriately, being otherwise ignored. (As for calling another song "My Aim Is True" -- well -- let's just say that the Exploding Hearts did the Stiff Records sound a heck of a lot better when it comes to recent bands.) It sounds just fine, this album -- with Robbins producing that's no surprise. The riffs hit big, the anguished heartfelt scream-singing of the frontman, the drums sound pretty great, it's all technically on point. Having made sure of that, First to Leave have brilliantly succeeded in not having to put any thought or originality about anything else into their work, and don't. Here's to hoping that Robbins was paid in advance.

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