Handguns – Don’t Bite Your Tongue (EP)

Don't Bite Your Tongue coverEveryone has at least a few bands that they just don’t get along with. For me, one such band is The Ataris – whether it’s fair or not I have a long-standing perception of the band as being far too wishy-washy for my tastes, and far too stuck in a rut of only writing songs about how fucking sad they are. If you’re going to do that, at least have a sense of humour or rock out about it, eh? Like The Ergs? In fact, my favourite Ataris song is actually ‘Song For a Mixtape’, because it has a Descendents sample at the beginning (‘Silly Girl’, if you’ve not heard it).

Another such band is A New Found Glory, who – if I’ve got my banal genre stickers the right way up – qualify as both a mallcore pop-punk group and the progenitors of something that grew up to be called easycore, at least until people got bored with the label. ANFG never resonated with me; although I dug a lot of those driving melodies and anthemic sensibilities I found the slick sound a little suspicious and the band’s image too goofy to take seriously (yes, I know that is pretty much the point).

Although it’s patently obvious that this is so I should emphasise that the above is wholly subjective, and I really have no objection to people disagreeing with me or even outright saying I’m wrong, even though I’m not. This is all just a roundabout way of establishing my prejudices before I drop the now blatant bombshell that I don’t dig Handguns mini-album Don’t Bite Your Tongue. For my money ANFG and the Ataris are the late-90s early-00s bands who laid the groundwork for contemporary outfits like Handguns, The Wonder Years, Set Your Goals and their ilk – see also Transit, reviewed here, who I didn’t get along with for similar reasons. It just ain’t my thing.

The elements of Don’t Bite Your Tongue that I do like are those rich melodies and some of their vocal harmonies; plus there are a few rougher edges and a bit of buzz here and there, which I appreciate. The track ‘Best Excuse’ is probably the best example of the band’s formula working for me; between the dual vocalists, the anthemic stylings and a bucketload of delicious octave chords I’m not ashamed to say that it has me nodding along to it. The lyrics, though… well, given what they do, they’ve got at least a little wit about it: “give me enough rope to hang myself with”. Wit is severely lacking  in ‘I Hope He Kills You’, which is sadly of that breed of pop-punk songs that aims to demonstrate how much a guy loves a girl by bitterly remonstrating her decision to break up with him and hoping that her new beau treats her like shit. Man, I get the impulse, but you ain’t Steve Albini and this ain’t ‘Prayer to God’; it all smacks of this.

Still, credit where it’s due; I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is bad music. It hits all the right spots and it’s not like they’re the only pop-punk band full of dudes who mostly write songs about girls in the world. Plus, the press release I got sent gives the impression that they tour pretty hard – spending over half of 2010 on the road – which speaks volumes of their dedication and passion, which I can respect even if the music and subject matter leaves me rolling my eyes. So yeah, if you read NFI regularly enough that you feel you gel with my own preferences, give this a miss, but if you’re just drifting by and you think I’m a div who just doesn’t understand how great all the bands I dissed above are, give it a try. Can’t say fairer than that.

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