New Jersey’s latewaves capture the difficulties of being in your 20s on debut album ‘Hell to Pay.’
Stream: “Sympathy (and Validation)” – latewaves
There are two key ways you can deal with depression and feeling like you’re stuck in one place: accept it and wallow or rage against it. Occasionally rebelling against the sense that you’re trapped in your day-to-day life is to focus on the good times and parties and make the everyday sound extremely celebratory. New Jersey’s latewaves use fist-pumping punk (that has some fair classic rock inflections) as they power through the pain on their debut album Hell to Pay (Know Hope Records).
Through anthemic choruses, catchy riffs, and adrenaline paced songs, latewaves power through the pain. Hell to Pay sounds like the type of record fitting for long drives down the parkway when you’ve managed to avoid the traffic and you’re speeding home or away for a long weekend. The band plays punk with the type of large riffs following in the footsteps of artists like The Gaslight Anthem and The Menzingers where an affinity for classic rock by the likes Bruce Springsteen is incredibly clear. Even if the lyrics occasionally divulge personal misfortunes or self-doubt, there’s usually a well-placed lick or guitar solo to keep the energy rolling.
Vocalist and guitarist Mike Pellegrino’s fluctuates between a cool baritone and an impassioned yelp often setting the scenes for Hell to Pay in verses and exploding in choruses. Tracks like “Guaranteed Burnouts” and “Almost Famous” are grimy rock and roll odes to being in a band. “Almost Famous” in particular can be one of the harder hitting as it touches on both losing touch with the place you call home and watching your friends succeed, feeling it all come together while splitting a drink.
All my friends got famous
And when they come back home to visit
From the West Coast, where they’re living
I show them all the cool, new places to grab a drink
Despite the songs touching on tough topics like an “moral slump” in the single “Sympathy (and Validation),” the hard luck lyrics are offset by the absolutely exhilarating energy of the three-piece’s instrumentals, making it hard to dwell on some of the lost nature.
In the album’s standout song “Too Much,” Pellegrino sings about how sometimes being at different life points can be the downfall of a relationship and lead to a certain type of self-medicating. He sings about making small talk with someone who “likes staying in on Fridays, because red wine puts you right to sleep,” while also inviting people to a BYOB party filled with Thin Lizzy tunes:
Too much is not enough
I’ve been drinking about you
I know it’s all the same to you
It’s just bad luck
I’ve been thinking about you
At the end of the second verse, he paints a much grimmer picture where “no one’s getting lucky.” Sometimes when you feel like you’re at different check points in life, you simply can’t spend time with people who you may have once felt were your closest friends. “It’s my birthday party, and I wanna be left the fuck alone,” he sings at the end of the second verse.
In a statement about the record, the band explained that the record is about the confusion that comes from going through this life. Even though the album captures the fun that everyone expects their lives to have, perhaps the titular “hell to pay” are the consequences in the lyrics that explore some of the deeper and harder truths that we’re all constantly experiencing.
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