Sound: Punchline's Just Say Yes, which starts out sounding like your run-of-the-mill pop punk album, actually throws out some surprises along the way. The record respectfully borrows from and/or is inspired by a stream of artists, and you're likely to hear the influence of Ben Folds and even The Beatles. Even though there are hints of other artists' styles, it's actually cool to hear a pop punk band put their own spin on things. There is also a bit more experimentation with instrumentation on Just Say Yes, but the band still ends up putting the most focus on the vocals.
Punchline's previous records have introduced pretty much every member of the band as a capable vocalist, and the new album once again allows guitarist Jon Belan to step forward briefly as a frontman during The Hit (easily the best song on the record). Most of the vocal duties do go to Scott Soboslai, and in a way there is a bit more cohesion. But in all honesty, it would have been great to hear Belan step to the mic a few more times throughout the course of the record. His range and vibrato actually stand out more so than Soboslai's during The Hit, and it makes for a great contrast.
Songs like The Hit, Ghostie, and Punish or Privilege do tend to stick more toward a pop punk vibe, and it's not until later in the CD that you hear a bit more unusual fare. Somewhere In The Dark feels like it could fit right in on any Ben Folds' CD, and it's definitely a catchy, lighthearted number. The piano aspect is fairly straightforward in that particular song, but there's a bit more meat to the keys on The Other Piano Man. The title does seem to be a throwback to the Billy Joel song, but the similarities stop there. What starts out as a fun little piano number will surprise you about midway through. The Other Piano Man almost takes on a crazy circus vibe, complete with organ and some over-the-top backing vocals.
Punchline runs the gamut of styles and emotions on the new record, and it's pretty well-rounded for the most part. There are a few slower numbers, with the closing track Castaway being an epic ballad for lack of a better description. The pop punk sound is always beneath the surface, but they take the style in several different directions and show their diversity along the way. If you don't care for the circus vibe or even the Ben Folds' touch, you might just like the Weezer-esque My White Collared Shirt. // 8
Lyrics: On the cover art of Just Say Yes, you see a melancholy young gentleman with a bouquet that, one can assume, will be handed to a certain lady friend. It's an appropriate cover given that pretty much every song except for one deals with love and relationships. While there's nothing really new or unusual about the love-driven songs, they are still going to relate to a good number of people out there. The one track that does veer off the relationship path is The Other Piano Man, and it definitely takes a different perspective than Billy Joel's famous Piano Man. Soboslai sings, Paper piles up in stacks; At a desk he regrets is his habitat; In an empty house with furniture; That he sits on nightly watching TV. It definitely has a dark feel about it, which is an unexpected surprise in comparison to the rest of the record. // 7
Overall Impression: Harmonies abound on Just Say Yes, and the vocal arrangements often tend to be among the big highlights. Punchline does deserve credit for thinking outside of the box with their instrumentation (there's even what sounds like a mellotron in Castaway), but at times the songs still evoke images of other artists. You can hear everyone from Ben Folds to Weezer to even The Beatles, but Punchline doesn't ever linger too long on those styles. There does tend to be a nice mix between pop punk and the assorted other influences, and the results are usually satisfying. // 8