Brimming with crunchy guitars and full of heart, Crucial Dudes’ debut full-length 61 Penn is chock full of memorable melodies and strong songwriting, making it tough to put down once you’ve gotten down on it.
From the instrumental opener “Mt. Chill, You’re Climbin'”, Crucial Dudes instill a sense of urgency in their approach to pop-tweaked punk-rock. Sure, it isn’t exactly something new, but they are at least doing it without falling to gimmicks, breakdowns or being too serious. Buzzing along with chainsaw guitars while melodies buzz in and out of your ears, we get a gritty, yet fun delivery to their pogo-inducing guitar attack. “Doubt” and “Boom, Roasted” seep with infectious licks and bombastic drumming in the tandem’s back-to-back minute long blasts of energy. Even though the first few tracks are disappointingly short, they get the fun, melody-laden mission of this band across in effective bursts. The blitzkriegs of manic backbeats serve the band well, but you’ll find they can do it big just as well. “Mad Nice” shows a soaring arrangement that hinges on whole-time drumming and bright guitars. It would have been nice to see this open up into a full track, as it just seems like unfinished business after a few listens with a sub-minute running time.
When the tracks do get longer, the band is much more realized and successful at creating something their own. The title track is reminiscent of early Saves the Day, balancing relentless pop-punk tempos in the first half of the song with half-time rhythmic crunches in the ending. Throw in some vocals that teeter the line of gruff and earnest, and you get something that is tough to turn away from your ears. “Contour” pours on the melodies, as the shiny guitar melodies of this track are instantly memorable. The drums also hold a concrete place on this track, driving it forward when the guitars aren’t creeping into your ears. Ending the album on an upnote, “Small, Bent and Ugly” pairs an inspirational opening with punching guitars and more of the melodic work you’ve come to expect by this point in the album. It all melds well until the band changes things up for a buildup that starts small and gets semi-loud by the ending. A bit of a rough ending to be honest, but its a good track nonetheless.
Vocally, we get something that is equally melodic, gritty and passionate. “Give ‘Em the Howard” is a high point, as we hear one of the better performances of the album here with some usual, albeit well-placed ‘whoas’ backing the belts of ‘I still love this place.’ Topically, we don’t get anything too heavy, but you can definitely feel the honesty in the words of this album. The only drawback vocally is that sometimes there is a tendency to sing words too fast (“Boom, Roasted”) or having them end up a bit muddled (“On Leaving”), but really its just a matter of delivery being tweaked just slightly. Overall though, the vocals really help give this album a sincere nature about it.
Pop-punk is all around us these days, and where some bands go for the hardcore-inspired breakdowns and two-stepping seconds, others are going for a much more punk-rock based approach with much more success. Crucial Dudes certainly have the skills to write gritty, catchy tracks, and 61 Penn is an album you should own if you find yourself prone to long drives, singalongs and/or sweaty basement shows.
3. Boom, Roasted
4. Through Being Crucial
5. Mad Nice
6. 61 Penn
8. Give 'Em the Howard
9. On Leaving
10. Small, Bent and Ugly
Crucial Dudes are a 5 piece punk rock band from Southern New Jersey. You can download the s/t ep for free here (http://www.mediafire.com/?mio2e2lydah). Their new album, "61 Penn", was released in early 2011 on Jump Start Records. Death to false dudes. They fight for the shit.
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