The Minnesota-based Remo Drive has risen up over the last few years with help from the longlasting emo revival. Like many musicians before them, the group has capitalized on the emotional chapters of life, blowing up events like unrequited love and rough break ups into palatable tunes for moshpit enthusiasts and the depressed, yet energetic young adults.
Unfortunately, “Natural, Everyday Degradation,” the band’s sophomore record, complicates a previous upward trajectory. Despite the presence of a punk energy, the new record often lacks in a previous raw passion, equating to something of a slump.
Around 2014, the band had introduced itself, as any self-respecting emo band should, with a series of split singles and self-released EPs. But it wasn’t until the release of a 2017 debut record, coyly titled “Greatest Hits,” that Remo Drive received greater attention beyond the bandcamp diggers and genre bloggers.
The debut album’s punch-in-the-gut lead single “Yer Killin’ Me,” helped find a satisfying balance between groovy math rock roots and melodramatic pop punk music, focusing more on the upbeat fun than the gloomy self-loathing. “I don’t wanna fucking be here anymore,” Erik Paulson shouted out at the beginning of song, quickly propelling his band into emo’s anthemic canon.
After going out of print, the debut record eventually saw a reissue on Epitaph Records, a label known for its lineup of cult emo outfits like The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and solidified punk ancestors like Descendents.
So there was some promise with Remo Drive, in addition to a strategic positioning within the genre. And on paper, this new album attempts to deliver on that promise by keeping the youthful punk energy intact.
“Degradation,” however, suffers from a consistent and difficult monotony, coming through at times in an apparent boredom from the band itself.
By the time the album’s closer, “The Truth,” comes around, Paulson seems completely uninterested. “I don’t mind killing time / Patience is a virtue of a strong mind,” he sings with a fitting lack of expression.
The song “Separate Beds” also does little to fill the space with its dull pace and formulaic mold. But things take a turn for the worse with the song’s forced synth pop flirtation.
Throughout the album, Paulson swaps out previously enthusiastic vocals for a nasally delivery. This may be a common and tolerable characteristic for many emo vocalists, but on this record it only becomes bothersome. It’s most noticeable on the intro of “Mirror,” a song that isn’t saved by the awkward addition of synthesizers in the arrangement.
What does work, however, is a repetitive and cathartic guitar riff found near the song’s end. “Natural, Everyday Degradation” does have some redeeming moments when the band is able to channel a meaningful energy. “The Grind,” for example, may be borrowing a page from Pulp’s “Common People,” but it still generates genuine angst and anxiety.
The band appropriates a famous AC/DC chorus on the song “Shakin’,” but it works out surprisingly well. Beyond the surface, it communicates the exhausting nature of difficult relationships, whether this layer of meaning was intentional or not.
There’s recurring themes of dwindling love and tired relationships all throughout “Degradation.” It’s unfortunate though that these themes become indicative of the band’s own effort and enthusiasm.
Paulson seems aware of the connection between the lack of energy and the pessimistic outlook; in fact, it seems somewhat intentional.
Speaking in a press release, he said “creating music, traveling, and performing are … nearly identical to the things that make romantic, familial, and platonic relationships so impactful. The aforementioned experiences are also the same things that make these relationships so difficult.”
The metaphor may be accurate, but it can’t do anything to save the music. Remo Drive may have been better off taking a power nap before recording its new album.
Check out the music video for “Around the Sun” below: