When reviewing Aim Higher’s Homemade EP, it is important to recognize the nearly uncredited contribution vocalist Kevin Seconds had on the evolution of punk rock into what we Millennials moshed to during the post-Y2K explosion of Warped Tours and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchises.
Seconds holds a special place in the annals of punk history, his pages sandwiched between chapters for hardcore and pop punk. Starting with his seminal band 7 Seconds, he quickly helped innovate the “melodic hard-core” genre, a precursor to contemporary pop-punk. Along with forefathers Descendents and Dag Nasty, 7 Seconds served as the bridge merging hard-core’s raging anti-musicality with more anthemic melodies and tighter structure.
From Homemade’s start, the four-song EP offers an unrelenting barrage of short, vintage, punk noise. But, under the surface it is so much more. I listened to the short record on a loop roughly three times. Shortly before, I had indulged in a YouTube feast of New Found Glory, and afterward a few more early 00’s radio punk bands, followed by some of Seconds’ early recordings. The resulting epiphany was staggering.
On one hand, Aim Higher is merely an extension of Kevin’s 7 Seconds discography. Aside from some lyrics perhaps weathered by experience or influenced by current affairs, the record doesn’t feel much different from the early works. On the other hand, it serves as a reminder that both his early work and this new venture are deeply connected to punk of the new Millennium. Yes, songs like “Stain on Your Generation” may be faster and rawer than the stuff produced by his contemporaries and they may lack some of the flair, the solos, the time changes, and so on, but like a close evolutionary ancestor, the anatomy is still there and easily recognizable.
A few 80’s and early 90’s underground bands, such as Lifetime and Bane, utilized the Seconds’ sound to moderate acclaim during their time. However, as the 90’s gave way to the new Millennium, the style was adopted by a plethora of acts, starting with Green Day and Blink 182, then reached its peak with New Found Glory, Sum 41, and Yellowcard, much to rapid mainstream success. In fact, did you know the Goldfinger cover of “99 Red Balloons” that seemingly made the song a pop-punk staple? Well, let’s just say, “Give credit where credit is due.”
The reason I’m bringing this up is not to disparage those bands. I absolutely love the crap out of them. Instead, I’m simply pointing out the sound was excavated and then reverse-engineered from 7 Seconds’ initial invention.
Homemade draws attention to this fact. It is, in a way, homage to the simpler, less commercial days of underground punk, put together by one of its aging apostles. Yet, it is more than that. It’s a reminder of where the commercial sound came from, and a plea to credit those who molded it in the first place. It holds a magnifying glass through which we see how punk rock as we know it started: with a handful of kids in the 80’s who wanted to take the deluge of hardcore sludge and build upon it something fun and amazing.