Don't let prejudice stop you from hearing good music
As with most compilations this one is a big of a mixed bag. My first thought is, didn't the Vans Warped tour used to be a punk show? Spread across two discs there are are more than 50 songs here to sate even the most cynical emo rocker. This isn't a live album, rather selected studio tracks from bands that performed on the North American-only tour. A promotional thing more than a well thought-out album, this one is for the fans. However, if you're just getting into this whole pseudo-punk thing that's happening at the moment, this might be a good introduction. What I mean is, if you like nasal vocals singing about relationship breakups and band breakdowns, this is the compilation for you....or so I thought, before I'd actually listened to it. It turns out the Vans Warped Tour is not the haven of middle of the road screamo acts I had assumed it had become in the last few years.
On a compilation CD, two things can happen. Either the stronger acts will make the weaker acts seem better by association; or the weaker acts will be shown up by the much stronger acts. I think in the case of the Warped CD it's a case of the former. Either that or there just aren't that many weak tracks on the double album. Even the songs that aren't that good have at least something interesting, like VCR's Do You Wanna Triumph, with its cool keyboard licks.
To be honest, I was a little prejudiced against this when I first pulled it out of the package. But, actually, it's a lot more diverse and interesting than I thought it would be. Vans Warped may be run by the same people who do Taste of Chaos, but it's a different story altogether. Much of the music here is catchy, cool and interesting. Of course, some of it is not. There's a lot on here and it would be impossible to describe everything. It's probably got something for...well, not everyone, but something for a lot of people. Then again, if you're reading a site called The Metal Forge, the Vans Warped Tour probably isn't exactly up your alley, either. The thing is, there's actually a lot of great stuff here, primary among them being the tech-wizards Protest the Hero, who lend their song Heretics and Killers to the mix. Ditto for the old schoolers NOFX and Helmet, schooling the newer acts in cred.
Those wacky Russians Gogol Bordello also spice things up and stand out in this selection like a cossack at a screamo gig. Their song Not A Crime, with its Cossack folk-dance is a standout here. Flogging Molly add some folk-violin magic here with their Laura; and even Christian outfit Relient K are cool. The Riverboat Gamblers' I'm Still Not Dead is pretty damn awesome: two and a half minutes of pop rock that actually rocks.
Of course, there are the nu-emo/whatever acts here, like All Time Low. But in the presence of some of the more alternative acts, it didn't bother me all that much.
This is a CD set that has to be judged on its song choice, but my cynicism receded as each new song played. Who would have thought I'd enjoy this as much as I have? The Matches, American Eyes...these are great bands that I've never even heard of.
So, do yourself a favour and forget about genre for a couple of hours. You just might enjoy it.
(Side One Dummy Records/Stomp Distribution)