While pop punk has never gone away, it is certainly experiencing a resurgence in recent days. Yet there are still variants of the genre, with some of the newer artists utilizing more hip hop and pop aspects into their sound. Ann Arbor, MI’s The Down & Goers are not one of those bands. The group feels almost like a throwback to earlier, east coast groups like The Bouncing Souls and MxPx, showcasing pogo-worthy melodies, heartland hooks and powerful playing on their self-titled debut album.
Started in 2019 by guitarist/songwriter Cliff Williams and drummer Dave Miller II, D&Gs put their emphasis more on the “punk” in “pop punk”, being unafraid to get heavier in their instrumentation like on opener “Alone”, but as the hyper, bouncy verses kick-in, it’s clear the group isn’t looking to pummel your ears. Even the heaviest tracks here, like the darker, gutter-punk styling of “Long Distance Love”, with its metallic guitar harmonies and furious drumming, balances things well with smooth, honey bourbon vocals.
The band ultimately is cultivating themselves as your local, neighborhood bar band. “Strikes and Gutters” is a catchy, pub rocker for all the regular Joes out there, who find “$20 on the ground” only to come home and find a note that their lady has left them. It’s this brand of relatable storytelling, delivered with a jovial charm that is the D&Gs sweet spot. They display with ease on the rollicking “New Places”, or the rambunctious “I Love You, I Hate You”, which one could easily picture fans chugging a beer to before hoisting their cans in the air to sing along. They even throw in a little dark humor, like the wicked laugh in “Life Goes On”, which could have been a Green Day b-side.
It needs to be said that some of the tracks here run together, as the band doesn’t deviate too much from their formula. “I’ll Go On” and “Happy Dead Man” are perfectly solid tracks, but don’t manage to stand-out among the other tracks. Only the closing track, with its hard rock breaks and expansive vocal range, show the group reaching beyond its comfort zone.
For a debut album, The Down & Goers is a great start for a band looking to fill clubs with old school style melodic punk rock. There are some slick guitar solos and vicious percussion on display, and lyrics that future fans will want tattooed or turned into bumper stickers.
You can listen to and buy the album on BandCamp, and find it on all streaming services starting May 4th.