Coming off of the moderate success of their sixth studio album, Not Without A Fight, the veteran pop-punk rockers chose trusted producer Neal Avron to oversee these sessions that would become Radiosurgery. New Found Glory released this album under Epitaph Records and would be their last studio album with their disgraced, original guitarist. Radiosurgery, for whatever reason, seems to get unfair treatment when comparing it to other NFG albums in their discography. While most wrote it off as standard fodder from the Florida pop-punk band, there really are some true gems on this album that is a satisfying listening experience from start to finish. The album received generally positive reviews from music critics, but only sold under 11,000 copies on the Billboard 200 charts (opening at #35). Radiosurgery would eventually peak at #26 on the Billboard 200 charts, and still contains many set staples in NFG’s live performances due to its upbeat nature.
This studio album opens with an immediately gratifying opening single with the title track as vocalist Jordan Pundik describes a mental health issue of a panic attack with the first verse of, “I’ve broken down, I’m a nervous wreck / My heart is beating out of my chest / And nothing feels familiar at all to me / Yeah, to me / My head is like a traffic jam / I can’t stop crashing into bed / When I panic, yeah, I find it hard to breathe / Yeah, to breathe.” The tackling of personal issues was a nice change of pace from the lyrical material found on their previous effort, and showcased a band aging gracefully in their careers. “Anthem for the Unwanted,” is a perfect example of the improved songwriting chops displayed by the veteran pop-punk band as it made for a great one-two opening punch in the album sequencing. Pundik’s vocals sound crisp, clear, and powerful as he sings over the dual-guitar attack courtesy of Chad Gilbert and the rhythm guitarist. Ian Grushka also has some great bass lines throughout these opening songs that leave plenty of interest in the material that follows.
”Drill it in My Brain” continues to topical exploration of mental health awareness and taking care of the space between our ears. The second verse showcases a collaborative effort from the band, as all five members get songwriting credit on this track, as Pundik sings about a flawed relationship with, “I could be falling to pieces / And you wouldn’t notice if I was at your feet / If you needed constant attention, or constant affection / You always looked further than me (uh oh) / How you took me like a fool, girl / But I knew it from the moment I knew her / Before you do me in like that can’t / We lay on our backs and / Think about the times we had.”
”I’m Not the One” starts with a radio commercial-type introduction before firing into a hardcore-esque verse of “Knock knocking on your bedroom door / Standing here wondering what I’m doing this for / Don’t know where my mind went I need to piece / Together the events that led me here.” The undercurrents of the band’s sound are based in melodic hardcore on this song, and Gilbert’s influence on the sound cannot be understated. The breakdown in particular on this track is a big reason why the band continues to blend this song regularly into their live sets.
The pure pop bliss of “Ready, Aim, Fire!” shows off a softer side to New Found Glory, that the band perfected on the fan-favorite Coming Home record. This is the closest the band gets on this LP to returning to that era’s sound, and it made perfect sense in the sequencing to wedge it in here. “Dumped” follows the great track with a nice, pulsating bass line from Grushka and a great sounding drum beat from Cyrus Bolooki. Pundik continues to command the track with great-sounding vocals and takes his craft professionally responsible as he sways along to the aggressive backing music with veteran ease.
”Summer Fling, Don’t Mean a Thing,” sounds like a song that could’ve easily fit on Catalyst or Not Without a Fight, but sounds a little silly to hear pop-punkers in their late 30’s singing, “But when you need a boy around you just for the summer / Don’t come knocking on my door.” This small lyrical misstep luckily doesn’t derail this studio effort from being a noteworthy addition in their discography. While I would have preferred this song as B-side, or being replaced with one of the other “Deluxe Edition,” tracks such as “Sadness” or “Over Again,” to further round out the direction the band was going for on Radiosurgery.
”Caught in the Act” is a nice departure from the aggressive tone of the material that surrounds this record, and the near-ballad features backing vocals from Best Coast vocalist Bethany Cosentino. The harmonies on the chorus between Pundik and Cosentino are truly a thing of beauty, and makes the song really take on new legs. The bridge further cements the contrast between the two vocalists, while ultimately bringing the story of the song together.
Things get back on the more energetic side with “Memories and Battle Scars,” that features some more great riffs from Gilbert, and he commands the song from the get-go. “Trainwreck” features another great opening guitar riff and allows for the song to build gradually around that structure.
Album closer, “Map of Your Body,” further cements the style New Found Glory was going for on this effort, and Radiosurgery is still one of my top-five NFG records due to it’s replay-ability nature and brevity of the album clocking in at just over the 30-minute mark. It’s definitely one of those classic New Found Glory records you can throw on in any mood, and come away feeling better about your outlook for the rest of the day afterwards. While it’s not a perfect pop-punk record, there really is so much to enjoy on Radiosurgery, and I’m thrilled to look back fondly on this ten year landmark.