As of this writing, it has been seven years since Gob‘s last album of new material came out. That’s a pretty long time to go with no new material for any band who likes to be seen as an enduring, creative entity but, for a pop-punk band like Gob, an absence so long might as well be synonymous with starting from scratch.
Seven years is the difference between being a snot-nosed fourteen-year-old punk kid and an adult old enough to have just received his bachelor’s degree. Because of that, getting any fans to transition from one developmental period to the other requires some new thoughts, some new musical ideas and probably a little musical restructuring – if they don’t just want to join the nostalgia circuit. It would be a tall order for any band to meet but, surprisingly, Gob proves they’ve been able to make a valid and satisfying attempt at restarting the engines on Apt. 13.
Consistently through the band’s new album, Gob goes out of its way to show listeners both that they’ve grown up and have the compositional chops to surpass the “four chords and a song about a girl” writing paradigm which got them noticed in the nineties. Of particular note, Tom Thacker and Theo Goutzinakis’ guitar performances (which feature technically sound solos of a caliber that no fan ever expects of a punk band) ring through the mix.
That said, fans looking for Gob to re-write “I Hear You Calling” are going to be disappointed; most of the ten songs which comprise Apt. 13 feature a keenly-tempered and honed, more grown-up tone [read: songs about girls don’t play much of a role, and the impression left by the music is closer to melodic hardcore than pop-punk] which proves to be very engaging because it does mark a significant change for the band. Standout tracks like “Radio Hell,” “Walking Alone” and “NIL” all hit harder than the band ever has in the past and Thacker’s production style really helps to emphasize the difference.
Those songs stand against slightly more experimental songs like “Keep You Standing There” (which offers more piano and mid-tempo time signature than Gob has ever really tried before), “Call for Tradition” (which actually bucks tradition as the band picks up acoustic guitars and strums a heartfelt campfire song) and “New York” (which actually sounds like a fucking U2 outtake).
It might be easy for some long-time fans to assume that those two sonic extremes would sit at perfect odds with each other and somehow hobble the play of the album as a result but, in fact, the differences between the two extremes that Apt. 13 plays with keep the songs from blurring together or just becoming a forgettable din; the variety in the songs engages listeners and keeps them guessing at what might come next rather than diffusing the power of the album.
So, standing back from it, there’s no question that Apt. 13 isn’t what fans would have expected from Gob, especially after seven years of silence – it’s BETTER. Many fans would probably expect that the band would play it safe and just compose a set of songs which would pander to their audience, but Apt. 13 is about as far from that as it gets; Gob pushes boundaries of taste and stylistic limitation constantly with each song on this record and, while it might be regarded as a a gamble, it WORKS. This the kind of comeback most bands only dream of making; it reignites the excitement that Gob used to generate so easily.