- The Silent Mile, What We Used to Have & Who We Used to Be
(Missed Out Records, cassette, CD, digital)
I'm starting to think pop-punk will be the cockroach of rock and roll's bastard children. As time and shifting trends further marginalize the once dominant, broad world of rock, it's fascinating to see which subgenres survive. I'm not a betting man, but I don't think I'd ever have put money on the persistence of pop-punk. Well, it wouldn't be the first time I was wrong.
Burlington's latest offering to that seemingly evergreen oeuvre is the Silent Mile. Composed of Hunter Phelps on guitar and vocals, Conrad Beckmann on bass and drummer Steven Dull, the trio formed last year and got right to business, recording the five-track EP What We Used to Have & Who We Used to Be. I'd point out that it's a breakup record, but that sort of goes with the territory in pop-punk, right? Because there are tenets of pop-punk, particularly those that shade toward emo, that the Silent Mile certainly oblige.
First, you've got your sad lyrics, rooted in a sort of high-schoolish nostalgia. "Stealing my hoodie was your favorite thing / I still have the scarf your mother made for me," Phelps sings on opener "The World Was Ours." The band chugs along with impressive crispness, excellently captured by local producer Ryan Cohen. The Silent Mile present a tight, united front of raise-your-fist punk.
What afflicts the record is a combination of overreliance on pop-punk tropes and a simultaneous failure to adhere to one of the genre's core values. Songs such as "Last Summer's Odyssey" check many boxes but not the big, important one. It's a song about a lost love affair at the beach in the summer — hey, kids love that shit! But you need a big, soaring melody to power this kind of tune, and that's where the Silent Mile fall short.
Phelps has a fine voice, but trying to find a hook in these songs is like trying to get that hoodie back from an ex. Instead of delivering the catchy, syrupy melodies you might find in a Descendents or Jimmy Eat World song, the tracks on this EP come across more like a list of how things suck.
I don't doubt the sincerity of the Burlington trio. The angst permeating What We Used to Have & Who We Used to Be is genuine, and the heartbreak that inspired the songs comes across quite clearly. The arrangements are well thought out and played with proper aggression. And in a genre so dependent on radio-pop sheen, Cohen ably handles the production style.
All that the band is missing is a bit more freedom from the confines of its influences, paired with stronger, or at least more inventive, melodies. It doesn't look like the niche that pop-punk occupies is going anywhere — at least judging by the records coming out of the Green Mountains lately. And, especially for a first foray, the Silent Mile's debut EP isn't a bad offering.
Listen for yourself at thesilentmile.bandcamp.com. The Silent Mile are touring around the East Coast this month, but are back in Vermont on Saturday, September 7, for Punk in the Park in Rutland.