First to Leave – Forging a Future
An arm-flailing, head-banging, yell-along-with-your-fist-raised epic of a punk album.
For every genre, I have a gold standard. Sometimes it’s a band (Ska: Five Iron Frenzy; Power-pop: Fountains of Wayne; Dance-rock: Free Diamonds) and sometimes it’s a not-yet-achieved combination of individual genre characteristics. Punk is one genre where the gold standard hasn’t been achieved. I know I’m not the authority on punk, but when I want to hear a punk band, I want to hear some old-school punk aggression, new-school punk melodicism, that hyper-overenthusiastic galloping punk drum beat, some vocals that are so passionate that they come off as ragged, and a good singing voice. Some bands get close (Latterman and Smash-era Offspring immediately come to mind) but I haven’t ever found a punk album that I want to listen to over and over again.
First to Leave’s Forging a Future is the closest I’ve ever found to my punk ideal. The twelve tracks on this album cover everything in the punk genre, from all-out old-school attack (“The Saving Cycle”) to punchy pop-punk (“Two Guns, One Mile”) to darker 90’s punk (“13 Frames”) to extremely modern sounding rock in “Revival (starts and ends)”. They pull everything off with a passion and a gusto that I find missing in so many “pop-punk” bands today. There is a sincere sense of urgency in the songs that First to Leave writes. That sense of urgency lends a credibility to every song that takes the album from a good collection of songs to an arm-flailing, head-banging, yell-along epic of an album.
I would love to see First to Leave live, because I bet their intense recorded passion is even better live. I hope that First to Leave start to get realized for the genuine bunch of guys that they are. If genuineness is still what the punk scene wants, First to Leave is what the punk scene will get. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep spinning this album in my van. There’s nothing that brightens a day like a talented bunch of musicians b(l)aring their souls at the top of their lungs and volume knobs. Definitely recommended for fans of passionate, fast-paced punk.