November 23, 2010 - Modern Short Stories
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, quartet the Composure are like a TV spin-off of vocalist/guitarist Paul Menotiades and drummer Cory Muro’s other band, Punchline. The content, characters and approach are pretty similar; they even released their debut on Punchline bandmates Steve Soboslai and Chris Fafalios’ label, Modern Short Stories, making it quite the family affair.
None of these songs would need to stretch much to fit on a Punchline album, but there are differences. First of all, the tempos tend toward the midtempo end of the spectrum, lacking the rhythmic crackle of Punchline’s most recent album, Delightfully Pleased. Hand in hand with the middling pace is a predilection for the pop half of the pop-punk equation. Keyboards play a supporting role in many of the 12 tracks, and Menotiades’ crooning vocals trends toward first-wave emo. That’s not so surprising either given that most of the songs concern relationships.
These aren’t so much complaints as distinctions. The Composure aren’t attempting to strike the same rambunctious irreverent pose as Punchline, preferring an earnest, hook-laden soundtrack for heartbreak. On “Me & B,” he revels in the possibility of “sleeping in and catching up with all my old friends/We’ll trash the house you kept so uncomfortably clean.” Menotiades opens “Stop Now, Start Again” by declaring, “I can’t keep hanging on, both my arms are numb, and my head is somewhere else,” while “Oh, Haley” asks, “Won’t you wash your hands and clean them of our romance/Oh man, what happened to our plans?”
While the subject matter’s a little one-note, Menotiades has thoroughly digested his Punchline lessons. The hooks are big and energetic, driven by good guitarwork, rich harmonies and a strong soft/loud verse/chorus dynamic. Indeed, the backing vocals are well-timed throughout, and the riffs memorable, from the dulcet bouncing power pop lick of “Me & B” to the sunny, shuffling sway of “On The Run” and reggae snap of “When I Was Younger.” The album’s strongest track is “Hold On,” which complains, “Luck isn’t ever on my side/Who gives a fuck if I even live or die,” over a bubbling keyboard line reminiscent of John Waite’s “Missing You.” It builds to a swelling chorus that showcases their pop craftsmanship, and wouldn’t be out of place on ’80s radio.
While there’s no doubt the Composure have their charms, fans of Punchline may find them a tad tame. It’s geared much more to those with a sweet tooth and a less rebellious nature. In sound and execution it’s sharp and polished—if a bit narrow in its focus.