There’s certainly an obligation here to discuss songs and melodies and all that jazz (pun intended?). But you’ve – we’ve – done that a million times. There are hints of The Starting Line and The Graduate, there are intensely personal lyrics, there’s a certain world weariness that is both refreshing and depressing to hear from a band so young – War Paint has all these things. And it’s good! It’s a very good album. There is no debating that. But of course, there is debating that. That’s all there really is. Especially if you’re one of the listeners who found Reach for the Sun to be some sort of musical epiphany. For you, War Paint might challenge your previously held opinions on The Dangerous Summer. And me? I don’t know – I guess for a few reasons that are none of your business thank you very much, I view War Paint in a vacuum. Its merits are based only on the sounds I currently hear, not the nostalgic ones my 12-year old emo boy heart fondly remembers. Making a connection with War Paint could mean lots of things: but what I hope it means for you is that you’re not ready for this world to be the boss. Liking War Paint means it’s time to stand up, move on and improve.
We didn’t really need AJ Perdomo to tell us that this world is filled with terrible people. We knew that! This world is filled with terrible people! But perhaps what we forgot, and often do forget, me included, is that these terrible people cannot stop us. We’re all middle class yuppies, right? Of course we are – so clearly we know true pain and suffering. Girlfriends leaving, people not understanding our art, etc – how do we go on?! But somehow we do, and songs like “Miscommunication” and “Everyone Left” are based around the sadness that arises when we realize sometimes things are the worst (“When you hardly have a heart / But you need it just to break”). This somewhat trite subject matter feels fairly fresh though, because Perdomo’s prose has become much more abstract. Whereas Reach for the Sun was in your face, War Paint lets its storyline play out in more, ugh, artistic terms.
But wait, what am I even talking about? Did you believe that last statement? Probably not, because in all honesty, it’s not that true. Perdomo has always been great because of his willingness to just let it all out. And truthfully, War Paint is no different. It’s still blatantly talking about meeting, hating, breaking up (“Tried to live a better way / Tell me where I’m from / Settled in my daze”). But to imply Perdomo’s writing hasn’t vastly improved would be wrong and unfair (“You’ll find courage to paint a world / That burns like hell / Not for allure, but mostly for yourself / ‘Cause you needed escape.”) Those words, from action-packed closer “Waves,” pack a punch in a completely customizable way. Take them in, but most importantly, filter them through your world and use them.
But no, this album is not some huge departure in any sense. While it may, arguably!, be a little bit less poppy and less dependent on big ol’ Hopeless Records hooks, it’s still an angsty, atmospheric pop-punk album. But yes, it should be viewed as a major step-up from Reach For The Sun. While Perdomo is still figuring out life, and probably will be for some time, this is a record where he’s learning to deal. There’s less outside blame within the lyrics of War Paint. It’s an album about taking what the world gives you and twisting it into what you need. And whether that’s a piece of optimism only us super disenchanted middle-class idiots can relate to doesn’t matter, because that’s what we are and that’s what we believe we have the power to change.
And if you’re like, “Why does he keep making these weird class-based assumptions about me?” Just, I don’t know, leave me alone. I’m working through stuff, (sort of) like The Dangerous Summer. Hopefully this will all make sense one day. I’ll let you know. But if none of it ever becomes clear, and there’s a good chance it won’t, a record like War Paint can help us cope. And that’s reassuring, because The Dangerous Summer have crafted a release that is just as much therapy as it is music.