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Album Review: The City Calls - Dirty Tricks EP

Though grossly inexperienced at both, there are some parallels between song-writing and child-rearing. You clearly wouldn’t expect a toddler to be reciting prose worthy of Proust and equally you shouldn’t expect a nascent pop-punk band to have the most groundbreaking lyrics. Equally, much like with child raising, there are multiple schools of thought on how hard a band should be chastised for making simple mistakes. Perhaps in this case, as the old adage goes: "I’m not angry – I’m just disappointed."

It is getting immensely frustrated listening to pop-punk and finding bands falling into the same lyrical pitfalls that all young bands seem to find themselves in. Being in a band in this genre is not a short-cut for writing, and spending time on perfecting, lyrics. The guiltiest track in this regard is “Flaunt It” an otherwise fine song with a great chorus and a huge hook but littered with lyrical mis-steps like “If you’ve got it flaunt it” and “Show me how you move girl/You got me feeling less than three tonight”. If there is anything I dislike most in music it is the use of the world “girl” in this context. This is not the only occasion in which the lyrics go some way to ruining songs otherwise full of potential.

'Those Eyes' is a belting song with some excellent dual guitar work and a nice and simple lead guitar line in a highly catchy chorus. While there is nothing wrong with writing on staple topics like the fairer sex nor doing so in a relatable and simple manner (see The Wonder Years) it is an altogether different proposition to attempt it and end up with insipid and generic wordplay over tight musicianship.

It shouldn’t be taken away from The City Calls that they have recorded an EP that puts them on an even level with bands like You Me at Six and Go Audio. The hooks are all there, and the obligatory acoustic track, “Get Away”, is a worthy inclusion in the long list of pop-punk bands going all Dashboard Confessional to close their record. Though not thrusting itself into the limelight, 'Heroics' is a solid song that does a good job of setting the stall out for the EP.

Nonetheless, this is still a disappointing EP, and the listener will only feel ambivalence towards it. It is neither good nor bad, it will neither propel The City Calls to stardom, nor relegate them to the scrapheap. While it proves The City Calls has the ear for a decent hook, it also proves that they cannot write mature pop-punk and that a full-length album, with songs of the quality of what exists on this EP, will be a flawed enterprise.


'Dirty Tricks' EP by The City Calls is available now through I Am Mighty Records.

The City Calls on MySpace

Nick Robbins

Alter The Press!