In the crowded scene of pop-punk bands during the early 00’s, I admittedly didn’t give Midtown as much of a hard look as I should have in retrospect. I would usually enjoy the singles that the band put on the Warped Tour compilation that came out each year, or stumble across a friend’s MP3 of punk songs on their computer that caught my ear, but I didn’t get on this band’s bandwagon until much later. After seeing Living Well Is The Best Revenge at a record store for a criminally low price, I took a chance on the album that I’ve grown to love even more so today. This album was crafted under the direction of producer Mark Trombino (Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World), and he helped Midtown hone in on the best parts of their sound to create a record that should’ve received more love and media attention. In an interview with Jason during the AbsolutePunk days, Midtown went into detail about their disdain for Drive-Thru Records, and potentially may have stunted some of the label’s desire to push the album into more commercial outlets. Controversy aside, Midtown’s Living Well Is the Best Revenge should be considered one of the better pop-punk albums to come out of this period of time.
Kicking off the set with the brazen “Become What You Hate” finds lead vocalist Gabe Saporta exploring the complexities of people giving up the high moral ground in order to find success. Saporta sings more directly on the issue on the second verse of, “How could I have been so blind / How could I have ignored so many signs / Especially when my friends warned me / About your deceptive side / And that your friendship was a lie.” The forked tongue approach makes for a great, abrasive punk song. “Still Trying” keeps the momentum going on the right track, and features a great, bouncy chorus similar to the styling of their label-mates New Found Glory. The song features a quirky breakdown in the bridge to help bring some variety into the set.
”Get It Together” was one of the singles released from the record that I remember most vividly, and its lo-fi acoustic guitar opening eventually breaks away for the electric guitars that Midtown are best known for. Saporta sings about a relationship in this track as he explains on the chorus, “Maybe we’ll see this through if we get it together / Maybe I’ll get to you / If you get it together / Go, try / Try to make yourself right / Go, try / To make this right and move on with your life.” His adoration for this person is felt admirably as he makes an attempt for this person to see the best parts of themself.
”Like a Movie” is a story about a woman who has suffered an incredibly traumatic event in her life, and she tries to pick up the pieces to avoid feeling so vulnerable with her unfortunate situation. The song feels different from the rest of the material, but it beats along with plenty of purpose in breaking up some of the similar tempos found on more of the straight-forward pop-punk material.
Other middle tracks like the blushing pop bliss of “Perfect” would have been an obvious choice of an additional single if the band had gotten more of a commercial push behind their record. It swoons along with dramatic flair, and the Weezer-esque ballad is sung primarily by Heath Saraceno. “You Should Know” brings Saporta’s vocals back to the forefront with a great, crunchy guitar riffed song about telling the person you most care about in this world that you have their back. The opening verse of, “You should know that I would never let you go / I’m here to bear the weight of years / You turn away what else is left for me to say? / You’ll think what you want / It’s like we’re once again at the first part,” makes Saporta’s intentions crystal clear.
Things continue to drift toward the more straight-forward pop on the second ballad in the set with “One Last Time,” and features some gorgeous harmonies between the multiple vocalists. The song really takes off with Trombino’s crisp production elements, and feels like a major label-backed power ballad. Closing out the record with the blistering pace found on “Find Comfort In Yourself” leaves the listener with the right balance of slow, mid-tempo, and fast-paced songs on this pop-punk record that has aged gracefully over time. Living Well Is The Best Revenge may have not garnered the immediate attention and praise it should have upon its release, but the beauty of music is that once it’s recorded and released, it’s there forever for music fans to find and appreciate. And I think that’s exactly what Midtown would have hoped for in the first place.