This album, Horace Pinker's third full-length, created a bit of confusion upon its release in June 2000, for not only did the set boast a quite different sound, but a different lineup from their Copper Regret EP, which arrived just two months earlier. In fact, the release dates were deceptive: the album predated the EP, having been recorded between fall 1998 and early spring 1999. Earlier in 1998, bassist Miguel Barron departed the band, just as new guitarist Matt Arluck arrived. Keen to get into the studio, Lynyrd's Innards bassist Karl Eifrig was brought in as a stopgap, but ended up making significant contributions to Pop Culture Failure, co-writing a number of the tracks. However, by the time the Pinkers came to record Copper Regret, Eifrig had been replaced by the newly recruited Chris Bauermeister. In any event, the album is more than just a snapshot in time, and takes the band to a grand new level of musicianship, songwriting, and performance. The entire set fizzes with energy and bristles with intent, encompassing a wider spectrum of styles than listeners would expect from Horace Pinker, as the band shifts agilely from the jubilant punk rock of "Second Best" to the pummeling hardcore of "Doorway" to the fist-in-the-air power ballad opening of "Refined" to the pop/rock and punk of "Nothing at All." The entire album is drenched in strong melodies and awash in equally powerful emotions, with some of the numbers straying straight into emo territory. Unusually for this genre, though, the intensity of delivery is matched by the depth of the band's sharply edged lyrics. The guitar work is its equal, whether roaring through "Closed" or tossing out rousing rock leads and chiming, poppier chords. The rhythm section is solid as a rock, but as exhilarating as fireworks on the Fourth of July. All in all, Pop Culture Failure is a superb set that deserves to punt the Pinkers straight to punk superstardom.
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