Forever Came Calling, Contender
I don’t care if you call it “melodic punk,” “post-hardcore,” or “emo,” whatever; the music San Bernadino band Forever Came Calling makes on its debut full-length is flat-out great, great, great, awesomely melodic, beautiful-yet-fiery rock that doesn’t stroll so much as run full-tilt out of the house and down the street, trying in vain to outrun its collective demons.
The songs on Contender are heart-on-sleeve romantic at their core but bitter and pained at the same time, the sound of a heart being shattered and pieced carefully back together after the damage has been done. Singer/guitarist Joe Candelaria sings like a guy who’s finally gotten back on his feet and is determined not to get knocked down again, his voice full of shy-boy sweetness but just rough enough around the edges to keep you listening.
There’s a fair resemblance to Moneen or Saves the Day here, particularly in the hardcore-speed tempos of the first half of the album — things slow down a bit with the excellent, Promise Ring-esque “If Bukowski Could See Me Now” and don’t really speed back up again after that, not that it hurts the band at all. In that first half, Candelaria and his cohorts (bassist John Swaba, drummer Bryce Esquivel, and guitarist Ron Grieger) play sharp-edged, speeding rock that’s snarling and bleeding and bitter but still awesomely catchy, as on “For The Wolves” and “Harbours.”
The album’s high point, for me, comes midway through, with “The Office,” a nostalgic look backwards that’s equal parts Jawbreaker and One Small Step For Landmines (the latter particularly in the vocals) and which calls out (I think?) Cursive’s Tim Kasher in the course of its blazing trajectory. It’s defiant and anthemic, the kind of song I just want to hear over and over again.
It helps, too, that it’s fairly brief — none of the tracks here go longer than 3:24, and most are less than three minutes long. The songs never outlast their welcome, but instead burn bright like a struck match and flicker out right when you want ‘em to.
At its core, Contender is endearing and honest in the best way possible, with the band vulnerable and unafraid of letting their emotions bleed through the strings and amps and microphone ’til it’s exploding out in a righteous, intense burst. Damn, I’ve missed hearing bands like this.