The debut full-length from Forever Came Calling gets a lot of things right, which is just what the California four-piece needed. The band manages to make a statement strong enough with Contender to avoid being swept up in the commotion of last year’s Pop-Punk Renaissance, which positions their debut to be one of the strongest punk records of 2012.
The first track, Learning, is a short introductory tune with some interlude-like vocals that are too low in the mix to really catch the listener’s attention. But it works, because the entire minute long song is a build up to the exploding opening lines of For The Wolves. The high-octane energy in For The Wolves greets listeners with fast verses and a declarative chorus that sets the tone for the album and has all the makings of a great live performance.
Harbours picks up where For The Wolves left off, with the notable addition of strong backing vocals that give the song a larger, fuller feeling. The gang vocals that kick in half-way through the song serve as one of the record’s most memorable sing-a-longs, and the track manages to cover a lot of ground in only two minutes.
The Office kicks off with fast paced drums and builds to a memorable hook. Lyrically the song is one of the strongest on the record and the vocal performance takes advantage of a variety of melodic sections. The Office could be a great single for the band.
Ides is my personal favorite track off of the record, because it hits on the best of everything that Forever Came Calling brings to the table. A standout vocal performance with well-composed lyrics that live up to the instrumentation keeps the track fresh the entire way through. Vocals, guitar, bass, and drums are all given their day in the sun during the song, and the result is one stellar track.
If Bukowski Could See Me Now is put in the precarious position of having to measure up to Ides, but the song does not disappoint. In fact, Bukowski gets everything right in the same way that Ides does, and together they provide what is unquestionably the strongest one-two punch on Contender.
I’ll Be Better, I Promise is a slightly more somber, pained track that offers something different than the other tracks, which is a welcome change of pace at this point in the record. The band manages to channel an emotionally charged performance into a song that is, as previously mentioned, a touch more reserved than the rest of the tracks, and the result is definitely enjoyable.
Front Porch Sunrise is a track that previously appeared on 2011’s Handguns/Forever Came Calling split release, and its return is more than welcome. The song, which feels like Forever Came Calling’s take on early-Taking Back Sunday tunes, fits perfectly with the rest of the songs on Contender.
The title track, Contender, is another fun track that fits, lyrically, as a response to For The Wolves. Though it doesn’t push any boundaries for the band in the way that other tracks on the record manage to, Contender is a solid song that lives up to its title track status.
Dead Poets Honor suitably closes the record. It’s fast paced look back at the subjects explored on the rest of Contender, wrapped up with a catchy chorus and impressive musicianship. Dead Poets Honor really does manage to capture Forever Came Calling’s sound in a nutshell; well-composed, entertaining tracks that do not forget to be fast, loud Punk Rock.
Contender is a solid record and will serve as one of the year’s stand out Pop-Punk releases. Like any debut, there is room for improvement, but the band has found a niche. The record clocks in at just under 24 minutes, which in many cases is more suitable for an EP than a full-length, but this is both a blessing and a curse for Forever Came Calling. The album should translate nicely into a live setting, where the record can be played front-to-back for most shows. But Contender will leave fans clamoring for more.
Written by Frank Campisano IV