Originating from Tualatin, Oregon, New Society are an old school band that are rebelling against contemporary music. Tracing their roots back to 1993, the band were born from the second coming of punk, where founding members Austin Cain and Rob Jenson first put their love of punk rock in action. With the addition of Ryan Hamilton, Jesse Tate, and Jason Mason, they formed an energetic quintet of visceral and seemingly unstoppable punk spirit.
After releasing two full-length albums in 2000’s ‘Trials and Tribulations’ and 2001’s ‘The Bonnie Situation’, the band were set for the main stage, rising about the underground status and touring on the national circuit with some of punk’s cult acts. It was shortly after their move to California in late 2001 that the band first recorded ‘Half-Truths & Hand Grenades’, a five-track EP that carried forward the visceral, rough cut spirit of their first albums. It took almost two decades before the EP earned itself a full release at the hands of New School Records, becoming something of a fabled time capsule for the band.
The songs that make up ‘Half-Truths & Hand Grenades’ were written during the band’s move and were largely inspired by the excitement, uncertainty and the soon-to-be lifelong memories that came with it. Charging forward with the same sound that first built their following, the EP emerges with a more refined, pop-punk aesthetic, pushing itself into more melodic territory without cutting out or diminishing any the raucous energy that first made it.
Opening track ‘Pedestal’ surprises with a more acoustic introduction, lulling you into a false sense of melody before the guitars and drums drop. The classic pop-punk sound is unmistakable in each chorus, but it’s the heavier sounds between that really make the track work, setting the tone and an impressively high bar for the rest of the release. Second track ‘Don’t Forget to Forget Me’ opens with a hail of guitar notes and rapid-fire percussion that is impossible not to be taken with, it’s ferocious, but deeply melodic, pushing and pulling at your senses while Mason’s vocals kick and fight through the melee of sounds.
‘Last Puzzle Piece’ is immediately involving, continuing the band’s nostalgic sound in brilliant fashion while also adding some impressive diversity into the mix with more emotive choruses and a heavier use of rolling bass lines that really emphasise the power of the instrumental breakdown that kicks in around the two-minute mark, while the staggered ending to the track is absolutely faultless. Penultimate track ‘Hermosa’ is all about the interplay of the guitar and drums laying down a platform for Mason’s vocals to shine, while closing track ‘…and Then I Say’ fades into consciousness with a surprisingly clarity and synth-built, harmonica-featuring underpinning. The classic, obligatory ‘ballad’ on a release, the last track is an evolving, emotive piece that is unlike anything you would expect to hear on a punk record, and the fact that it works so well speaks volumes about the quality of New Society’s songwriting.
Not content with just creating a tactile punk sound, it’s clear from ‘Half-Truths & Hand Grenades’ that the band were, and still are, reaching for more, infusing every track with a sense of character and humanity. It’s a mammoth release that covers so much ground in five brilliant tracks, and if this is the kind of music that the band were writing almost twenty years, then we can’t wait to find out how far they’ve come once they get back in the studio.
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