Set Your Goals
Burning at Both Ends

Set Your Goals - Burning at Both Ends

Two years ago, Set Your Goals was riding a high. The group’s 2009 full-length, This Will Be The Death Of Us, was fairly well received on a large scale even though it disappointed some longtime fans of the group’s breakthrough record, Mutiny! That 2009 release catapulted the band to some fair heights and a position as a leader in the new-school pop-punk scene, for whatever that was worth.

Well, if I’m trying to go by Alternative Press’ line of thinking … it must really suck to be Set Your Goals right now. Burning At Both Ends isn’t just a step back from the group’s previous work, it’s a downright embarrassment considering we all already know how good this band can be. On a broad scale, if I was going to pin down one major problem with the record, it would be this: it is super boring.

Considering each song is played at such a high tempo, with Set Your Goals’ signature combination of gang vocals and sorta hardcore-influenced guitar work, this record is just boring. It’s a blander, more watered-down version of This Will Be The Death Of Us, with the biggest failure coming in the vocal department. This might be most evident in “Cure For Apathy,” the album’s opener. The first verse is great – a perfect kickoff to the record, in fact – but the vocals from Jordan Brown and Matt Wilson in the chorus are polished to almost an unlistenable sheen. The overproduction is only part of the issue here, as the remainder of the song just comes across as a half-baked effort.

The early part of the record is salvaged by the only two songs on Burning At Both Endsthat are worth much of anything. “Start The Reactor” is a blisteringly paced track that should have been the opener, and probably should have been the template for the entire album. “Certain” shows off a chorus slightly similar to that of “Cure For Apathy,” but Brown and Wilson trade off lines this time and manage to hit the mark.

To say that Burning At Both Ends falls flat on its face after the third track would be harsh – but it’s pretty accurate. “Happy New Year” continues the woes in the vocal department, and tracks 4 through 7 really just bleed together as one continuous tidal wave of the wrong way to do this style of pop-punk. “Exit Summer” is the one last beam of light on the record, a more aggressive song that shows me this band still has the core attributes needed to be successful.

Unfortunately all the cracks in the roof of Burning At Both Ends that were letting in the light get boarded up by “Product Of The 80s.” I’m pegging this song as the lowest point of Set Your Goals’ entire career as a band. The sugary sweet chorus makes this song the poppiest in the band’s catalog, but it just doesn’t hit home properly. The melody is catchy and memorable, but the lyrics and execution are tough to listen to. Listeners who don’t abandon the record after this track aren’t rewarded, as “Raphael” is a rehashed version of This Will Be The Death Of Us-era sound and “Illuminated Youth” is uneventful aside from the great guest appearance by Comeback Kid’s Andrew Neufeld.

In a year full of fantastic releases, it is painful to see a proven band like Set Your Goals fading away. With two previous full-lengths that were extremely solid in my opinion- including Mutiny! which is a pillar of the new school of the genre – it’s disheartening to see this band fail to adapt. The songwriting on Burning At Both Ends isn’t nearly up to par with other prominent pop-punk groups, and Set Your Goals only stumbles more in the execution of their sound.

At the end of the day, if Set Your Goals is still a band in two years, I will more than happily listen to whatever record they put out. I will anticipate it and be anxious the first time I spin it, similar to how I felt the first time I listened to Burning At Both Ends. This band will never completely lose relevancy to a lot of the younger crowd in the pop-punk scene, and if Burning At Both Ends proves to be the last album Set Your Goals releases, it’s easy to say they will be remembered for their triumphs rather than their failures. 

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