Modern pop punk is spreading like a virus, and in a genre as populated as this one it’s no easy task to stand out. Of course, there are some that tackle that task like it’s nothing — case in point, Handguns. With their latest full length, Life Lessons, the five piece have managed to create ten tracks that portray exactly what modern pop punk is about, and they do it in a way that’s right. So. Damn. Right.
Life Lessons jumps right in with “Anvil”. It’s heavy, pounding and short, and is the definition of what the band is at this point in their career. This is the song that’ll have you taking interest, and prepare you to fall hopelessly in love with the album. Next up is the near perfect “Sleep Deprived”. Before you know it, you’ll be shouting “I’m done losing sleep over this” along with vocalist Taylor Eby, filled with so much love for the song you feel like you just might explode.
“Sleep Deprived” fades out into the very hungry “Highway Robbery”. It starts with an epic guitar piece, then becomes a head-bobbing, lyrically incomparable love song to the road. You’re then taken into “Heart vs. Head”, the first single released from the album. It operates at a breakneck pace, and the ferociously quick guitar work will have you wondering how the hell guitarist Kyle Vaught managed to create it. It’s out for the kill, and translates phenomenally live.
The next track, “I Can’t Relate”, starts right in, giving you no time to ease into it’s one minute and five seconds of heavy hitting drums. The song ends just as suddenly as it begins, and suddenly you’re thrust into “The Loved Ones Who Hate Us”. With Eby’s vocals at their most abrasive, an urgent beat and great backing vocals, it’s one of the best songs in the collection.
“Queens” enters with a cool, winding guitar and breaks into one of the more mellow songs on the collection. The vocals are toned down a bit, to give way to the masterful music supporting the track. “Give and Take” boasts the best intro of Life Lessons, and changes up the pace for its three minutes and fifteen seconds. There was a heavier dose of pop added here, and it works well. While we love the fierce punk over pop feeling the rest of the album holds, it’d be interesting to hear this type of melody on more of the band’s future tracks.
“Give and Take”’s ending “woah-oh’s” roll into “Waiting For Your Ghost”, which is the ultimate pop punk summer song of 2014. Grab your longboard and head to the beach with this track blasting through your car stereo.
“New Years Resolution” starts out feeling like the end of an album, which is exactly what it is. As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and the fact is damn disappointing where Life Lessons is involved. The collection ends strong, with a good guitar riff, a great beat and a bit of that pop influence that was found on the previous track. The end of “New Years Resolution” can be described as nothing less than a grand finale, and really gets you pumped to hit replay when it ends. This song is the end, but it’s also just the beginning. Handguns have found a formula for pop punk that we haven’t seen before, and we love it more than we can express. The only thing that bothers us is that we still haven’t figured out which song was originally titled “Bananas”.