It's hard to deny the similarities between the Gravel Pit's sound on Manifesto and This Year's Model-era Elvis Costello. The guitar work is mostly crunchy chords -- solid but not stellar; the tempos fluctuate all over the map, from manic rockers to shuffling ballads; and organ chords glide their way over the top of every song, adding a new-wave polish to the tunes. Lead singer Jed Parish also has as much Ben Folds in him as he does Costello, which makes for melody lines that are as plaintive as they are edgy. He can be angry, as on songs like "Officer Dwight Boyd" and "King of Everything," but he can be pleading, as on the heartbreaking track "The Prayer," a low-tempo ballad that begs a lover to put her faith in a man who will never misbehave. The band achieves the perfect mix of pleading anger on "Favorite Scar," a rollicking pop song for those who love to drink their way out of the blues after every breakup. It's the kind of song that would have made Costello circa 1978 proud: "You're still my favorite scar/I still wonder where you are/As I drift from bar to bar all alone/And that's how I'll stay." The band derives plenty of energy from Parish, but drummer Pete Caldes also brings some hefty power to the mix; if Parish is the fuel, then Caldes is the engine, chugging away furiously and propelling the sound forward. All told, the Gravel Pit deliver a tight, manic package on Mainfesto, begging and bitching their way through just under 40 minutes of solid pop-punk excitement.
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AllMusic Review by Matthew Springer