Overall Impression — 10
I will never cease to be amazed at how different a label Victory is becoming. It used to be that Victory was strictly chugga chugga straight edge kids rockin' out, with a bit of metalcore here and there. Those days are long gone, as Count The Stars' Never Be Taken Alive fully attests. Count The Stars play punk/emo pop in the same vein as label mates Taking Back Sunday; the songs are big, powerful, and sing-songy. Such a formula is what got bands like New Found Glory and the aforementioned Taking Back Sunday so big. What's kind of scary, though, is that Count The Stars are clearly a better band than either of those two bands, and the songs on Never Be Taken Alive are incredibly consistent, in the same way that Green Day's Dookie was, back in the early 1990s. "On the Way Home" is a tremendous rocker with "Ohhh Ohhh" back up singing and guitars that pummel with ferocity; if Blink-182 and Sum 41 can shape their turds of songs into radio hits, Count The Stars should be raking in millions, as well, based solely on the strength of just this song! Just like Dookie, though, there are several songs on this record that could be huge hits. "Taking It All Back" reminds me of Weezer with testosterone, crossed with Enema of the State-era Blink-182. The chorus is punchy, big, and has an infectious vocal melody. I'd be willing to bet, though, that mainstream radio isn't quite handle the aggression of this record. Like many bands that should have been famous, but were a bit too tough for their own good (see Jawbox, Jawbreaker), Count The Stars really put their enormous guitars high up in the mix, making for a really attacking sound. In the same way that Nirvana's In Utero was more raw and brutal sounding, and sold far less than Nevermind, there's only so much toughness a mainstream audience can handle. This might be one of the best records of the pop/punk genre that I've heard in quite some time. It may be, though, that this one will slip through the cracks. The kids who listen to nu-metal garbage will say the vocals are too wussy, the kids who like New Found Glory and The Get Up Kids might say that Never Be Taken Alive is "too punk," and the indie rock kids might say that this album sounds "too much like Blink-182." Who knows. This is a really fantastic record, and is one that shouldn't be missed; take my word, as I usually completely hate pop/punk music, but there's something very special about this one.
Never Be Taken Alive review by Count the Stars
Overall Impression — 10