After the Hotelier’s soft transformation from straight emo to a mellower indie rock sound, alternative rock has been in need of a significant emo record. Remo Drive, an emo/pop-punk trio out of Minneapolis, MN, headed by guitarist and lead singer Erik Paulson, succeeds in bringing a revitalizing record, full of the spirit, charm, and vigor.
Lasting only forty minutes, the album is short, but complete, full of variety and energy. At first listen, Remo Drive might resemble The Promise Ring’s accessible pop-emo sound, as well as early 2000’s, Guilt Show era, The Get Up Kids. Jeff Rosenstock also comes to mind and, though Paulson’s vocals are significantly sweeter and perhaps more palatable, they share the same affinity for tight, smart lyricism. Greatest Hits also shows very little adherence to genre, foregoing the twinkly, math rocky complication of strict emo, instead affecting a sound oriented at times towards pop punk, sometimes lighter indie rock, sometimes post-hardcore.
The album opens with “Art School” a fantastic, dynamic track, flipping between bouts of stormy guitar riffs and Paulson’s reaching, aching cries on the chorus. It is lamenting and sentimental, but yet bumping and quirky. Towards the tail of this track, the vocals are dropped and the song devolves into a soft, pattering instrumental transition for “Hunting For Sport,” a heavier, thrashier song. It’s a fine song, but a tad too long, its coda stagnates and dampens rather than ornaments. “Strawberita,” is the best named song of the album, and another standout track, opening with a desperately catchy guitar pattern and channeling into a love song of bitter self-awareness, split by a playful interlude.
“Yer Killing Me” was released as the lead single of the record and for good reason. Of the album, this track holds the most personality, the most moments of sing along anthems, the most memorable lyrics. It’s a prototypical emo song, Paulson sings of heartbreak and disgust, failed attraction and self-destruction, emoting through an especially sardonic, silly chorus, the climax of the album, the moment of magic. While these songs certainly stand on their own, the entire album impresses, holding the whole forty minutes without a significant divot in quality or investment, there is no red-handed weak link in this record.
Not since Jeff Rosenstock’s worry has there been such a shining example of punk without pretension. This album is a great addition to the pop punk canon, an exciting debut and perhaps the best punk album of the year so far. This record is anthemic and proud, its lyrics full of melodrama and misanthropy, its instrumentation thriving and kicking. Sometimes Remo Drive is a little self-indulgent: the tracks saunter on for a few seconds too long, the track titles are ridiculous and the album title, Greatest Hits, is, depending on your outlook, rather smug. But Remo Drive is charming and sappy, young like you and I, its three members just a year either side of twenty.
Despite their youth and relative inexperience (recall, this is their debut) Paulson and friends do an incredible job of breathing life into emo, honoring its shouty sappiness, snarkiness and gruff. Most of all Remo Drive succeeds in making an album that is genuine, emotional, and pleasing. This record is the product of rejection and frustration controlled and cooled, twisted, like blown glass, into something beautiful, fragile, and real.