Sound — 7
MXPX, one of the most prolific pop-punk bands out on the scene today, is set to release yet another studio album, which marks the first time in about a decade the band has returned to its original label Tooth & Nail. Their latest CD Secret Weapon has plenty of peaks and valleys among the 16 tracks, but it is refreshing to hear the pop-punk band still exploring a variety of styles and rhythms. MXPX also dishes out some candid lyrics with their usual humorous twist about the woes that the average pop-punk band might have to go through in a dollar-driven music world While not every song captures your attention on Secret Weapon, there are still some that could expand their fan base. It's actually when the band goes for a sound completely different than the pop-punk sound that vocalist/bassist Mike Herrera, guitarist Tom Wisniewski, and drummer Yuri Ruley make the biggest impression. Chop Shop walks the line between an aggressive punk song and a straightforward, up-tempo rock track. It also sounds like there is an additional vocalist helping out on the chorus (likely Wisniewski), giving the song an angrier sound that Herrera doesn't always deliver. Instrumentally, one of the best features of the song is the siren-like sound heard throughout, which apparently (at least in part) is a guitar line mimicking it. Sad, Sad Song is actually a throwback to '50s pop songs and is surprisingly effective. It's the one track on the entire CD that doesn't come close to sounding like anything else. There is more of a doo-wop background vocal aspect during the chorus, but it never feels like overkill. There is some guitar in the track, but it's the bass line that carries it all. A cleaner guitar pops up intermittently, and it's the perfect amount to add a little color to Sad, Sad Song. The majority of songs on Secret Weapon do sound like your average pop-punk band, with Biting The Bullet being the main offender. The band definitely weighs heavier on the pop side with songs like Bullet, and unfortunately the result is fairly uninteresting musically. MXPX would probably be better off eliminating the filler songs, particularly considering that they'll still have more CD tracks than the average band's release.
Lyrics — 9
MXPX delve into a subject that obviously hit close to home with Punk Rock Celebrity. It definitely has a cynical tone and could possibly addressed to any of the labels they've worked with in the past. Herrera sings everything from Punk rock celebrity is oh so fleeting to You've made such a big mess, but let's call it a success. The song has an authentic tone that stands out easily from the other tracks. The band touches on a similar topic in Top Of The Charts, a pop-heavy track that sarcastically addresses the desire to be a celebrity in the music world. Herrera sings, Everybody wants to be like the people on TV; Everybody wants to see the show for free; From the bottom of our hearts to the top of the charts. While the format is pretty basic and doesn't break a lot of new ground, the band still touches on some humorous topics that make the song a memorable one lyrically.
Overall Impression — 8
While it's respectable that the band does have the ability to write so many songs, a few of the tracks on Secret Weapon just bring the energy down and aren't needed. It actually has nothing to do with tempo, either. Sad, Sad Song is one of the slower songs on the record, but because it draws on a musical style from a different decade, it is absolutely a worthwhile addition. MXPX does prove that it's capable of doing a lot more of the usual pop-punk genre in a song like Sad, Sad Song. MXPX has been able to reach out to a wide audience by being able to walk the line between punk and pop, but on Secret Weapon they are only at top of their game when they take risks. Chop Shop and Contention stray from the pop-driven, accessible sound they're known for, and because of it those tracks immediately draw your attention. It's in those moments where it's obvious the band has created a tight rhythm section over the years, and the band should accentuate that even more on the next release.