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Chicago pop-punk band still overshadowed

Observer Scene | Thursday, November 3, 2005

If a figurative snapshot were to be taken of MEST’s latest release, “Photographs,” the result could be summed up as following – three chords, one theme.

The ten-year-old Chicago-born pop-punk band is frequently compared to other big fish in the genre including heavy weights like Blink 182, Good Charlotte and Green Day – a testament to their inability to form a readily recognizable identity of their own. Photographs” takes a turn from their previous albums (with the help of producer John Feldmann, vocalist from the group Goldfinger) into the angst-driven realm of hopeless troubles and love gone wrong, all delivered under a guise of cheerful chords and repetitive melodies.

“Photographs” develops a darker image of MEST, pushing it more towards the emo side of the pop-punk spectrum. Almost every song on the twelve-track list revolves around dark images of nightmares and death, a majority of these moments being products of some past or current heartbreak. The lyrics contain a few dry metaphors and, while not entirely bad, repeat the same theme over and over throughout the 43-minute duration of the CD. Whether it is their unusual coupling with some of the more upbeat riffs or Tony Lovato’s whiny voice, something is left to be desired.

Each song follows the same general format, alternating between verse and chorus with a short interlude, before ending on a variation of the chorus or a repeated phrase that modulates the piece to a close. The vocals are solid enough, but not worthy of special attention, which ends up hurting the songs where they are the sole melodic element strewn over top of bare guitar chords and drums. The same style of vocal harmonization is found in every song, which helps fill out the sound, but is distracted by the over use of reverb and techno effects, a major disruption in the track “Tonight Will Last Forever.”

Though the listener may be left wanting more, MEST still manages to create a number of simple yet addictive riffs, a trait highly sought after and hungrily consumed in today’s pop marketplace. Melodies from several songs manage to imbed themselves into your head (for better or for worse). Some of the catchier tunes can be heard in “Photographs” and “This Time.” Though the attractive melodies from songs like “Last Kiss” may manage to nestle themselves into your head, the actual lyrics, “Stare at you as you slit my wrists and as we share our last kiss / Hold me as we die” are probably not something you want to be caught singing to yourself while waiting for a professor to start class.

Accompanying the CD is a bonus DVD that trails the band during its cross-country tour. The DVD provides several suggestions on how to get yourself arrested – the tasteless antics of some of the band members are in a league with what you might expect from Tom Green.

Critics may debate whether or not you can have too much of a good thing, but what happens if you get too much of something mediocre?

“Photographs” is one example. Lack of variation is what kills this album more than anything else, along with the empty feeling it leaves (in your pocketbook) when the realization sets in that nothing noticeably innovative has occurred. With some sounds found in “Photographs” reminiscent of Alkaline Trio, MEST, though displaying a knack for creating catchy melodies, is still overshadowed by its more popular cousins. For those who are fans of the above listed bands that MEST emulates, their earlier album “Destination Unknown” (2001) would be a good way to test the waters before plunging into “Photographs.”