As the new millennium has seen Epitaph Records forging a new identity for itself — a more modern one – the Punk-O-Rama series has disappeared, making way for a re-titled version of the series called Unsound. The retirement of the popular series is sensible, as recent releases saw the bands becoming less and less “punk” over time, and only a handful of Epitaph standards are still with the label. The new school of groups — From First to Last, Escape the Fate, The Matches, Matchbook Romance, etc — is culled from what’s now termed as the “screamo” scene, or “post-pop-punk,” or whatever. The more traditional and/or creative artists aren’t high on the label’s list of priorities, apparently, as classic bands like Pennywise, Bad Religion, and the Bouncing Souls don’t make an appearance until far into the album’s second half. Progressive-minded rappers Sage Francis and DANGERDOOM don’t drop in to say hi until around this time as well.
Basically, the disc is set up like this: From First to Last and Escape the Fate introduce the record with their brand of metal-tinged rock, the former coming off as a wannabe Thrice and the latter attempting to be a harder contemporary of Fall Out Boy. The Matches are slightly more interesting, supplementing the pop-punk chops of “Little Maggots” with a drum machine. Youth Group’s cover of “Forever Young” fails to capture the band half as well as one of their original numbers would, taking the Death Cab For Cutie-esque kids from Australia down a road of, well, bad covers of bad songs that fail to capitalize on nostalgia. Motion City Soundtrack, one of Epitaph’s more interesting and promising younger bands, finally delivers the first decent track in “Attractive Today.” Skilled songwriting and sweet keyboard swells have always made the band a hard one to dislike, and the only negative aspect of the track is that it’s over in under two minutes. Converge and Some Girls come from polar opposites of aggressive music — one catering more to metal, the other to fashionable hardcore. Bad Religion, the Bouncing Souls and Pennywise all bring old music to the mix, or at least tracks we can find pretty easily on each band’s previous releases.
Lots of nu-emo/punk garbage abound on this one, with only a handful of tracks making this a worthwhile purchase. Then again, these compilations are almost more notable for their suggested retail prices, which normally fall somewhere in the $5-7 range. Take a chance if you’re looking for some broad exposure, but all you die-hard Punk-O-Rama nerds will probably be let down.
Epitaph Records: www.epitaph.com