If you’re a punk, Indie, or alternative rock fan of any sort you’ve probably heard of the Descendents. Often credited as helping kick off the pop-punk craze on the West coast in the early 90’s, the Descendents were among the first to infuse Hardcore with infectious pop minded melodies and more personal lyrical themes. How does this relate to today’s review? Allroy Sez… is the debut release from ALL, a group formed from the remaining members of the Descendents when their lead singer left the group to pursue his graduate degree. In short, ALL is Descendents minus Milo. Welcome to another Freegal album review! If you don’t know about the library’s free music streaming service, you can read all about Freegal here.
For an album released in 1988, Allroy Sez… sounds remarkably modern in much of the song writing. Paradoxically, the album is also very grounded in 80’s production techniques that anchor the record to a very specific moment in time. What you get is an album that is clearly anticipating the breakout of pop-punk and laying the groundwork for its breakthrough, while still displaying it’s 80’s punk rock roots.
The album kicks off with the up-tempo and extremely melodic “Pretty Little Girl”. The incredible guitar sensibilities of Stephen Egerton are immediately on display with a flurry of runs and licks that tie the various phrases of the song together. There’s rarely a moment on the album where the guitar takes a rest from its almost frantic pace, but it never steps on the toes of the other elements and still manages to maintain a strong power chord foundation. Singer Dave Smalley’s voice cuts right through the high energy instrumentals to deliver very clear and upfront vocal melodies. He projects a lot of presence and energy while still remaining intelligible and more importantly on key. A killer opening track and an excellent introduction to ALL’s sound, “Pretty Little Girl” is a great song through and through.
“Just Perfect” is another standout track. Featuring a chorus that will live rent free in your head for the rest of your life, the song illustrates just how darn good ALL is at blending bubblegum pop with punk attitude. Karl Alvarez’s mad bass skills are on full display with accents and counter melodies weaving through the song in unexpected and pleasant ways. It’s not often that a bass line gets stuck in your head, but I think I can hum “Just Perfect” from start to finish.
If Allroy Sez… tickled your fancy then you’re in luck, the band went on to record a total of eight studio albums, albeit with minor lineup changes from time to time. My personal favorite is ALL’s sophomore release featuring new singer Scott Reynolds, Allroy's Revenge. Reynolds’ vocal performance and styling has a lot in common with Smalley’s, but Reynolds' delivery has a bit more grit and punk rock edge.