At the beginning of the new millennium, bands wielding twinkly guitars and broken hearts dominated creative outlets from mainstream radio, to blocks of MTV airtime, to the burgeoning social media scenes of the era (ask your friends to show you their old Myspace accounts; you’ll see what I mean). Now pop punk, or even its little brother emo, were not products of the early 2000s. Both genres have arguably existed since the ‘80s and then came into mainstream popularity during the indie boom of the ‘90s. Nonetheless, the flood of notoriety these bands received in the post Y2K years was…well you almost needed scuba gear to get through it.
On the one hand, there was certainly a level fun to all of it. The music was enjoyable, especially for a young skate rat like myself just beginning to learn the definition of punk rock. Looking back, the sound of many of these bands combined the riffs and beats first crafted by the hardcore forefathers with the ear-worming magic of mainstream pop music. It was a fine creation, at least in the beginning.
On the other hand, a saturation of marketable bands and overabundance of corporate sponsorships inevitably lead to a strong distaste among listeners as the sounds produced by these MTV-friendly acts began to feel more and more manufactured…not to mention accusations that the genre as a whole bore somewhat misogynistic subtexts. Within a decade, these factors, along with the unforeseen explosion of digital music sharing, saw the pop punk/emo bubble burst, leaving many chart-topping bands to either fade into obscurity, or descend back into the realm of small venues and independent endeavors from which they’d once so hopefully escaped. But this was not the end of the new incarnation of pop punk. Back in the underground, it thrived, carrying its initial fans along and finding a new following far beyond the radar of Hot Topic and FM radio.
For the Win is one such band. Formed during our current era in the sunny wasteland known as San Diego, long after the radio-pop punk ship had already sailed, the group dropped their debut album More Than You Know via Artery Recordings in 2014. The release lead FtW on to numerous tours with the likes of Being As An Ocean, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and more.
Their latest single, titled “Crash and Burn,” offers a taste of the sound we can expect from the band’s next album slated for a 2017 release. In “Crash and Burn,” we hear the band exploring the extent of both their poppiest sensibilities as well as punk’s hardcore roots. The guitar work is peppy and and makes you want to bob your head and shake your butt, almost similar to britpop or j-rock, and knows it doesn’t need to get overcomplicated to get the job done. The lyrics are average youthful breakup-fanfare, yet does well not to take itself too seriously, instead trading frustration for a sort of snotty self-help. Then there is a breakdown similar to metalcore about midway through the track, which at first feels jarring, but eventually grows on you and serves as a nice contrast from the song’s otherwise melodiousness. After multiple listens, I began to imagine the energy this song must carry while played live, especially once that breakdown hits.
Admittedly, this band is not for everyone. Their sound and lyrical content is certainly on the gentler side, lacking much of the bite akin to punk rock as a whole. However, if you like early ‘00s emo-infused pop punk in the vein of Taking Back Sunday, Newfound Glory, and Bowling for Soup, you’d do well to check out what For the Win has to offer.
For the Win are: Kyle Christensen (vocals), Matt Jimenez (guitar/vocals), Lee Chambers (guitar), Giovanni Suarez (bass/vocals), and Omar Nieto (drums).
Check out their official video for “Crash and Burn” via Artery Recordings’ YouTube channel.