Carousel Kings sound exactly like you think they would. If we can boil the pop punk genre down to its absolute essentials: upbeat rock music that is catchy and accessible, then they fit the bill, and I’d imagine few pop punk fans wouldn’t find much to complain about. It’s basically all I go into a pop punk album expecting, and if it can give me a few songs that I’ll want to sing along to, I’ll probably keep listening to it. That might seem like a low bar, but I think that crafting a legitimately catchy tune is a lot harder than most people would assume. Carousel Kings’ Plus Ultra is an album that does that, sometimes, and therefore an album I’d recommend. That said, I’m not sure if it’s an album I’ll be listening to a year from now.
Having apparently toured non-stop since first forming in 2008, the band is more than competent. They thrive on simple, catchy power-chord riffs, punchy drums, occasional leads with the vocals taking centre stage on every track. The guitars even veer away from chords at various points, going into somewhat bizarre territory with almost funky strumming during ‘Code Breaker (Smile)’ and more riff-based guitars during that track as well as ‘Truth Seekers’ later on in the album. The album also throws the occasional kick-ass solo (‘Lock Meowt’ – it’s killer) at you, and though short, they are much more substantial and technical than your typical pop-punk guitar solo. Some of the songs are super catchy as well, particularly in the first half of the album. ‘Move Slow’ is probably the catchiest pop punk track I’ve heard all year.
So yes, I like a lot of what Carousel Kings have presented here. That said, I feel as though my enjoyment isn’t proportional to the amount of effort it took for them to produce this, because the band clearly puts everything into their music. You can hear it, the production is a lot cleaner and more professional sounding than most small pop punk bands, and the musicianship is far from lacking. I bet they’d be an absolutely killer live band, too. But the song writing feels a little rudimentary at times, and the lyrics are sometimes pure cringe. David Alexander sounds remarkably like a deeper-voiced Tom Delonge at points (“tell me loooooies, all the tooooooime,” “I haven’t seen you in a whaayul”) which, as a massive blink-182 fan, I dug for the most part. It has some of the pitfalls of that as well, though, with the vocalist’s voice trailing off in very whiny AVA era Delonge-style. It got quite irritating during some of the softer tracks as well, most notably Shelter where the nasality of his voice is so irritating it’s almost funny. The ten guest vocalists didn’t do much for me either with the exception of Lexxe and Matt from GutterLIFE who contribute female and screamed vocals, respectively. I mean, it’s pretty cool that there are more voices featured here than on your typical pop punk album, but unfortunately most of them sound exactly the same.
Still, a lot of this is very catchy, which, like I said, is all I really look to pop punk for these days. If it also boasts witty lyrics or intricate instrumentation or is even somewhat subversive, that’s a bonus. Carousel Kings take your general pop punk template and scribble slightly outside its margins with varying results. Some of it’s great, some of it not so great – it all comes together in the end, and the album’s worth a listen.
You can check it out HERE!