New Found Glory

Not Without A Fight

Beyond all the overt boxing metaphors it evokes, the title Not Without A Fight works on multiple levels in the context of pop-punk icons New Found Glory. Between a publicly known band history and deeper issues alluded to in Fight’s sometimes embittered lyrics, it seems NFG’s world has been turned upside-down in recent years, and it’s been an awfully tough scrap setting things right.

As vehemently as some fans defend the group’s last full-length, 2006’s Coming Home (usually employing the oft-abused term “maturity” in the argument), others feared it signaled the beginning of the end. Coming Home was the first time NFG swerved erratically off-course, abandoning the hard-charging melodic punk/hardcore fusion they’d pioneered to bask in neutered mid-tempo pop and heavy-handed sentiment. Throw in their inevitable exodus from major-label land, as well as the rise of a new generation of kindred bands, and for the first time in many years, NFG suddenly had something to prove.

After signing with venerated punk label Epitaph, NFG tapped producer/ex-Blink-182 member Mark Hoppus for the Fight sessions, and the album wastes little time throwing down the gauntlet. Nixing Coming Home’s kitschy keyboards and regaining the aggressive attack last heard on 2004’s Catalyst, Fight’s opening track, “Right Where We Left Off,” builds upon a chunky guitar riff that recalls classic NFG, yet surprises with smart, subtle rhythmic twists. The song is just a taste of what’s to come; throughout Fight, it’s the guitars, fueled by drummer Cyrus Bolooki’s frenetic tempos, that exude the greatest return to form. From “47,” with its near-speed-metal breakdown to the raucous “I’ll Never Love Again” to the fluid, Tom DeLonge-esque guitar lines in “Truck Stop Blues,” it becomes abundantly clear that guitarists Chad Gilbert and Steve Klein have rediscovered their missing mojo and have come to rock.

As welcome as the renewed emphasis on crunch may be, it’s unrealistic to expect NFG to approach the actual songwriting the same way as when making 1999’s Nothing Gold Can Stay. On Fight, NFG’s true “maturity” shines in the album’s skillful composition that offers up instant classics like “Truck Stop Blues” (which could be a single as gigantic as any they’ve had) and “Heartless At Best” (which delves into the sort of grandiose punk you’d expect from the Bouncing Souls). Vocalist Jordan Pundik takes a step forward as well, balancing his trademark nasal whine with the far greater range and nuance he’s achieved over time. But that’s not to say it’s a perfect effort across the board, either-there is some filler, particularly within the latter half, which despite the inspired riffage, isn’t quite as memorable as the former. If NWAF were a smidge more consistent throughout, it would certainly be receiving a higher rating in this review.

With a back catalog as beloved as NFG’s, it’s tough to gauge where Not Without A Fight will ultimately place amid each fan’s personal favorites. But if nothing else, the record is a reminder of why we fell in love with NFG in the first place. For many of us, that’s plenty.

Blink-182’s Enema Of The State
Four Year Strong’s Rise Or Die Trying
Green Day’s Insomniac

1. Right Where We Left Off
2. Don’t Let Her Pull You Down
3. Listen To Your Friends
4. 47
5. Truck Stop Blues
6. Tangled Up
7. I’ll Never Love Again
8. Reasons
9. Such A Mess
10. Heartless At Best
11. This Isn’t You
12. Don’t Let This Be The End