GONE STEREO – I’m So Sick / Cool Kids

Following on from ‘Don’t Think About You’ – a single that got a huge amount of attention from online radio station SiriusXM (home of Little Steven’s Underground Garage) – this double hit from Long Island pop-punkers shows off their gifts for very strong melodies in a manner that’s just as effective. Armed with a massive love of early Sum 41, The Ataris and middle period MxPx, the band’s mix of sun-filled sounds and semi-angsty lyrics is in a classic mould, therefore instantly familiar, but that in itself very much works to the material’s strengths.

Following a burst of feedback and an effect that sounds like the band are joining the listener via a detuned radio, ‘I’m So Sick’ wastes no more time before introducing some really melodic sounds. First a broad guitar riff telegraphs their punkier chops, before veering off into an even more tuneful riff where a huge alternative pop melody fills a jubilant vocal. The huge reliance on chorus harmonies set against against a massive melody screams influence from early Sum 41, but not quite as much as the shift into a moodier section where an old school lead guitar break beefs up a rock edge. So many pop-punk bands wouldn’t bother with a solo in this way, but Gone Stereo’s bigger musical chops really help to give them an important crossover potential. In addition, when shifting back from the instrumental break and back into the big chorus, the track’s main hook somehow seems even bigger than before, ensuring that the few who might’ve been unconvinced previously are hit between the ears with great effect. In some ways, this is pop-punk 101 with a shoehorned in lead guitar break, but the end result is stunning.

‘Cool Kids’ isn’t a cover of the Screeching Weasel classic, but a self-penned original that further shows off a gift for a very strong pop-punk melody. If anything, it’s actually a little better than ‘I’m So Sick’ thanks to an even crashier rhythm and soaring lead guitar used as an effective intro. Here, it’s really easy to understand the unity within the band, and once the verse takes a hold, the blend of classic MxPx and The Ataris results in another harmony led banger. The arrangement is really tight, especially in the way it uses choppy guitars against a rousing vocal but, again, the allegiance to a tried and tested pop-punk sound results in something so, so enjoyable. A couple of spins is enough to make this stick, and released at a time when so many pop-punk bands are either focusing on the pop, or going the other way and injecting heavier breakdowns into their songs, it’s a real pleasure to hear a band celebrating their chosen style in a very traditional way.

In many ways, Gone Stereo seem really keen to bring a party sound and live in a permanently late 90s timewarp, but when the results are as strong as this, you really can’t blame them. These tracks represent some of the best user-friendly pop-punk since The Ataris released ‘So Long, Astoria’ some twenty years earlier. Recycled it may be, but the band’s blend of riffs and lyrical hooks are almost perfect. Fans of the style should grab a download immediately – enjoyment is guaranteed!

September 2023