The Chicago-based band Guardrail has self-described themselves as “Diet Punk” since they are heavily influenced by punk bands, yet their sound doesn’t stray too far into that genre. Lucky for them, genre lines continue to get blurred in today’s scene and it matters very little what category a band gets placed in as long as they continue to write good music. The band is comprised of Kevin Andrew (vocals), Ken Ugel (guitar), Alyssa Laessig (bass, vocals), and Doug Brand (drums) who each bring their own strengths directly back into their sound. Guardrail reminds me of the melodic, guitar-driven rock of bands such as Autopilot Off, The Bouncing Souls, and Fenix TX. Comparisons aside, they have delivered a well-crafted new EP called Yikes that directly examines the pitfalls of growing up.
The set kicks off with the song, “Really?” that finds vocalist Kevin Andrew contemplating the strains of growing up in an uncertain world. The track is structured around the strength of Ken Ugel’s guitar riffs, the pulsating bass lines of Laessig and the perfect timing of Brand’s drumming. It makes for a great introductory song to set the tone for the rest of the material that follows. “Anyway” follows the solid opener with some more reflecting on the hard parts of growing up, but the band takes it all in stride by crafting catchy songs that deal with heavy themes. The chorus of the track features some great backing gang vocals in between the lines of Andrew’s delivery of each line.
”Shipwrecked” kicks things into a new gear with some great hooks, well thought out stops and starts to make for a solid melodic hardcore-tinged punk track that features more bite than bark. The song definitely complements the choice of artwork for the EP, and the bridge is reminiscent of emo veterans Silverstein and Hawthorne Heights.
First single, “‘Til We’re Dead” is a perfect way to introduce Guardrail to a wider audience as it plays out as catchy as anything else that’s currently on the airwaves. Andrew sings on the chorus, “We’re missing something, yeah / We’ll take the easiest route / If this one doesn’t play out,” and its easy to relate to the lyrics of finding some solace in looking for different options if the hard path forward doesn’t make sense.
Album closer and title track, “Yikes” further rounds out the sound that Guardrail was going for on this EP with some moodier feelings backing the tone of their instruments. The band really hits their stride on the catchy chorus and showcases what fans of the band can look forward to on the horizon as Guardrail continues to expand on the best elements of their music. This band has a lot going for it, and I’ll definitely be revisiting this EP often as we all continue to cope with turning the page on this tumultuous year.