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When my roommate’s brother heard This Will Be the Death of Us, the new Set Your Goals album, he said, “I like it, there isn’t as much cheese sandwich.” I know, WTF? Bear with me. The songs on SYG’s (yay acronyms!) 2006 debut album Mutiny were filled with dramatic exclamations about things like being an individual and not letting others influence who you are, remaining true to one’s self, etc. My roommate and I from then on referred to these types of lyrics as ‘cheese sandwich’, as we could imagine the band spouting defiant refrains such as “I’m going to make myself a cheese sandwich because that’s what I want to eat and you can’t tell me what to do, it’s my life and I can eat whatever I want!”  Henceforth, the phrase ‘cheese sandwich’ was born.

I didn’t really like Mutiny, even though I have a huge soft spot for pop punk music and the fact that I went to the same high school as Jordan Brown, one of the vocalists in SYG. The overall sound of the record was a bit empty and generic. I also didn’t like how the album’s first song didn’t really start until the fourth track, due to what was essentially three intro tracks to start an eleven-song disc. I didn’t vibe with that too well.

set your goals

Well, This Will Be the Death of Us is a huge improvement from the raw and unfocused sound of Mutiny. With the new disc, SYG has created the new standard for today’s pop punk world. The album, released on Epitaph Records, is a sparkling collection of songs. Whereas the band’s previous output tended to adhere to a mostly formulaic hardcore-influenced pop punk style, the new tunes are more varied in sound and overall feel. Songs such as Summer Jam and Look Closer have a much poppier sound, and as a result the tracks are energetic and upbeat. The Few That Remain, the album’s first single, is doing pretty well in the modern rock radio circuit. It features a guest hardcore vocal from Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and however silly the verse (and its introduction) may be, the song is infectious and one of the album’s highlights.

Just as with the debut record, This Will Be the Death of Us hardly reinvents the wheel lyrically. SYG’s songs are still angsty tunes with silly lyrics (Summer Jam is basically  about how great it is to tour and be in a band, and Flawed Methods of Persecution & Punishment repeats the phrase “NO MORE ANGUISH, NO MORE TORTURE, NO MORE SUFFER, CALL FOR RESTRUCTURE”, which doesn’t really make much sense grammatically), but the overall sound of these songs is fun and happy in a way that makes them appealing. Equals is also one of the disc’s highlights, with its driving guitar riff and catchy refrain of “Shouting words at a mirror, trying to find a hero they all say I am” and also its bridge, which almost sounds like AFI (East Bay punk AFI, not glam rock AFI). Another key track is Gaia Bleeds (Make Way for Man), which has to be the heaviest song the band has ever recorded. It’s almost metalcore and features some hardcore yelling from someone named John Gula. It caught me off guard the first time I heard it, but it’s one of the album’s most ambitious tracks (at least as ambitious as SYG could get).  Our Ethos (A Legacy to Pass On) concludes the disc, and contains a guest vocal from Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory, whom SYG idolize and have toured with numerous times. Chad’s basically involved with every pop punk band that seems to be around now, so it comes as no surprise that he was involved with this record too.

This Will Be the Death of Us is a very solid album, one of the better pop punk releases in recent memory (second in my mind to NFG’s Not Without a Fight, which came out earlier this year). Set Your Goals has come a long way from Mutiny, and with This Will Be the Death of Us they clearly establish themselves as one of the leading bands of today’s pop punk realm.