Don't Look Down

Start the Show

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Damn it if Don't Look Down isn't doing it for the kids. The New Jersey crew had already played hundreds of all-ages shows before Start the Show -- their official debut -- was ever recorded. Those basement and backyard gigs paid off, because the album is never more than three seconds away from a fresh-faced hook, universally prescient lyric, or pogo-worthy breakdown. "It's so hard to look back now," Ryan Ogren sings in "Hindsight." "Thinking of all those things I never did." And right when you expect it -- right where you need it -- the song leaps into an anthemic halftime chord change that makes the line "Why can't I be more like you now?" resonate with the kind of emotional pain that keeps kids up at night. "Get It Right" rocks the MXPX/Jimmy Eat World template with real skill, shifting effortlessly between chugging verses and an overdriven chorus. Ogren and his pals also deserve some credit for moving out of the pop-punk influence pool for the harder-edged dynamics of "Fade" and "Away," which channel California hardcore. Appropriately, Start the Show ends with what passes for a ballad in the pop-punk universe. The plaintive opening strains of "Better Off" give way to more rapid-fire riffing as Ogren croons a rallying cry for stressed-out teenagers everywhere. "Simply put, I need a rest from everything that I can...I think I'm better off alone." The song's blink-style breakdown is a little much, but it's nevertheless a rousing ending to a solid debut set. Don't Look Down -- coming soon to a skate video near you.

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