music, reviews

Children 18:3 (5 of 5 Stars)

(Originally posted at AbsolutePunk.net)

I wasn’t sure what to make of this trio of home-schooled siblings – two brothers and a sister – whose name feels like some youth group worship band, who dress like some kind of goth death metal rockers, and who sound like Shiny Toy Guns meets Paramore meets MxPx meets your neighborhood ska band meets I don’t even know what else. But it only took one spin through their Tooth & Nail debut for me to decide that Children 18:3 are the most refreshing that punk rock has sounded in years.

Children 18:3 leave behind the ambient, multi-layered lovefest of the modern day and simply play their instruments and impress with a crisp and tight sound. When it comes to punk rock, this strategy usually leaves us trapped inside the doldrums of a two-step four-chord whining contest, but the Hostetter siblings churn their creativity to the max to keep things catchy. In addition to the standard upbeat punk tunes, songs like “The City” incorporate ska-like offbeats and a dancing bass, while songs like “Mock the Music” feature Panic!-esque dance rhythms. The mellow “A Chance to Say Goodbye” flows like a good ballad from your old friends MxPx or Blink-182 (you know you used to like them, too). There’s even a few guitar solos that, mixed in with the hooks and riffs, would feel right at home on Guitar Hero.

However, the strongest weapons in the children’s arsenal are the vocals of David and Lee Marie. David sings with a likable intensity that carries the melodies with its sharp inflection, occasionally falling somewhere between the professional quirkiness of mewithoutYou and the frenetic dexterity of that one Ludo song. Lee Marie shines with a piercing resonance on typical catchy anthems like “Search Warrant.” At other times she lets out her true colors with more of an intensity that feels neither misplaced nor presumptuous. But what is most delightful is the trade-off between the siblings, singing back-and-forth or together with nearly perfect timing. Their seamless integration blows Shiny Toy Guns out of the water while adding the icing to an already smart cake.

Children 18:3’s lyrics are just as refreshing. Often they create clever pictures that stand well enough on their own, or can be searched for a deeper meaning. “All My Balloons” declares, “The words I wrote are a broken chain / Holding me from the criminally insane / But its gone and there’s no stopping / All my balloons are popping.” Other songs give food for thought to the faithful without turning off the rest. “Final” jeers, “Their fathers killed the prophets / Hallelujah! They’re going to kill us too,” while “You Know We’re All So Fond of Dying” projects a sarcastic cry from the unborn.

The fact that I’ve made so many comparisons should not lead you to believe that these are aspiring punk rock posers without a solid sound. Just the opposite is true. Their sound feels so unique that it’s impossible to pin down to a single artist, and it’s probably why every reviewer is reminded of someone different, from Superchick to the Clash. I recommend purchasing the album from iTunes, which includes the bonus track “Who They Are,” a strong anthem with an equally strong call to love (“Jesus, who are you talking to? / Do you know who she is?”)

There are a lot of heavyweight veteran releases to look forward to this year, but Children 18:3 is a pleasant surprise you’ll want to keep spinning. It’s practically required to be on any punk fan’s annual list, and is original and exciting enough to sneak in as a viable contender for the rest of us from the broader musical world as well. The only thing still to come is the dedicated fanbase. This is your invitation to join.

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