The Scenic – Bipolaroid

  • Cole Faulkner posted
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The Scenic

Bipolaroid - Victory Records

The Scenic is one of the most refreshing power pop bands to grace my ears in years.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the Philly natives aren’t the next Motion City Soundtrack (although at times they share a similar synth), but they do manage to embrace the genre without sounding overly commercial – all the while being signed to Victory Records – no small feat.  Their sophomore album, Bipolaroid, makes good on their promise, and showcases a band intent on wedging itself into the power pop landscape, all the while paying homage to past Drive Thru Records greats, and some modern emotional frontrunners likeSay Anything.

Right from the first lyric, vocalist Jeremy Menard comes across calm and fun.  Unlike many pop-punkers, he understands that he doesn’t have to rally the crowds at each and every word.  Along those lines, each lyric doesn’t have to live in the moment, and as soon becomes clear in opener “Sunday Morning,” all it takes is confronting life’s little blemishes with a smile to bring those disheartening inconveniences down to earth (even if you have to work Sundays, a feeling I know all too well).  Even general downer “Uh Oh” keeps dampened prospects uplifting.  They confirm such sentiments when in the guitar heavy “Magic,” Menard actually assumes an active stance and attacks those perpetuating negative thought, like when he quotes ignorant and stupid catch phrases “everything is tragic and everyone’s a faggot,” challenging listeners to look beyond substance-less and hurtful fads for a bigger picture.

But as implied in the album title, there are two sides to this body of work.  Happy thoughts come matched with less cheery ones, as per the death referencing “Sparrow Song,” and regret filled “Charts and Graphs.”  “Charts and Graphs” in particular, with its gloomy, Jack’s Mannequin-like reserve (even with a few piano keys in there) serves as a powerful reminder that even for optimists, the threat of reality always looms overhead, even if when all is said and done, “the sun keeps coming up.”

Generally, Bipolaroid matches this mood with some well thought out lyrics, although a couple tongue in cheek moments miss the mark early on.  Most notably, “The Lonely Side” throws in an intentionally shallow passage that never really overcomes its face value.  Menard shouts “We’re just two pawns in a battle of wits/I’ll bring the brains, you bring the tits,” a line that I doubt even Say Anything’s Max Bemis could overcome.  That being said, the rest of the album is surprisingly well written, and serves to draw listeners in with contemplative and introspective choruses.  The best example being the catchy, innocent pop punk beat of “Oh No” that gives way to tongue twisting mouthfuls like “should have done something but I lost control, uh oh, uh oh, logical illusion.”  Sure, it’s no Bad Religion, but The Scenic can be pleasantly abstract when needed.

Bipolaroid is a breath of fresh air in a genre that lost much of its integrity when Fearless Records started signing sugary pop acts like Every Avenue.  While stylistically more commercial, I’d liken my enjoyment of Bipolaroid to that of Punchline’s recent effort, Delightfully Pleased.  The Scenic never takes itself too seriously, but also proves to have more substance than those silly, dime-a-dozen pop punk bands with flamboyant press photos and zany hair.

Victory Records hasn’t signed anything this organic in quite a while, so here’s to hoping The Scenic is a sign of things to come.