I never said that I was a nice guy!”

So opens Nick Trask on ‘Nightmares’ – the fourth track from the new LP by New Jersey based pop-punk quintet Major League. The spirit of these lyrics reverberate throughout the record and  help give ‘Hard Feelings’ its accessible nature – one would assume that Major League are nothing but nice guys. On the surface it would be easy to condemn the record into pit of middle-of-the-road pop-punk; the type that seems to be mass produced and shipped over to international shores.

Some aspects of this assumption are of course entirely justifiable – Major League embody the middle ground of a certain travelling punk road-show across the USA. They do not belong in purist punk territory, nor are they welcome in the straightforward pop camp. There does not seem to be much need to mention that they don’t belong in the metalcore camp either; that is pretty self-explanatory.

If Trask never said he was a nice guy, that impression would undoubtedly have been invited by the glossy sheen on ‘Hard Feelings’. It contains everything you would expect from a catchy pop-punk record; the vocals just push into the lead followed closely by the distinguishable guitar riffs (there is no hint of distortion or messy instrumentation here). Similarly, the song compositions merrily shift from melodic choruses to addictive verses in a perfectly clean and approachable nature.

So what makes the protagonist so sure he isn’t a nice guy? This could have something to do with the occasional crack in the vocals – ever so slight but deliberately on display. The opening track also removes itself from the pop-punk genre, with only the vocal style and vocal harmonies indicating what is to come. The tempo is notched up to maximum levels and guitar riffs remain at a consistent tone behind the vocal wall; certainly not the tunefulness associated with the genre. There are even the occasion moments of emotional hardcore – sections of ‘Walk Away’ or the aforementioned ‘Nightmares’ appear like a punk twist on the likes of Hidden In Plain View.

The subtle quips do provide a layer underneath the glossy sheen of the production. Lyrically the band encounter every cliché going – from break ups to make ups, to desperation and hope, through to just having a damn good time. Here is what the record is founded upon –good times. ‘Hard Feelings’ with its upbeat and bouncy sound fits comfortably between pop and punk and has real cross over potential. Major League have created an album that will be enjoyed by far more than just  your normal enthusiasts.

Yet even though ‘Hard Feelings’ does contain the occasional crack in its polished outer layer, at its core is simply a thoroughly enjoyable listen. The edge is there, but it never dominates the overall sound. This is as close to consistent as a modern pop-punk record has managed in recent times. It is just a shame that we are going to have to wait until next summer until we can play this loud in our gardens – let the summer begin!

BEN TIPPLE