Songs In the Key of You
- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
The Huntingtons burst onto the punk scene in the latter portion of the '90s right alongside groups such as MXPX, Slick Shoes, and Blink 182. But unlike those acts, their roots are steeped in the past, with a sound reminiscent of The Ramones. In fact, the group has been so moved by The Ramones' sound that they recorded an entire tribute disc to them in 1999 called File Under Ramones.
But, as the punk genre shifted gears in the last couple of years to incorporate more of a pop-laden sound, and with the recent death of Joey Ramone, The Huntingtons have modernized their sound quite a bit. Mainstream acts such as Sum 41, New Found Glory, and Blink 182 have no doubt influenced the band to soften their image and stick to a more accessible sound. In terms of accessibility, "Really Really," "Entertainment Under the Sea," and "Welcome Back" have their catchy elements, as well as pop undertones. "Entertainment Under the Sea" features a surf punk beat (think Cadet) with group members harmonizing with one another during the chorus, while "Welcome Back" even incorporates some keyboard sounds. Straight-out punk surfaces on "Nobody Likes Me," an attention-grabbing track that feels like something out of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show," while "Too Late" is a track with a similar bass line. I really like the fact that The Huntingtons can completely strip away their punk edge during the mostly acoustic rock song "If You Only Knew." It seems to be a new trend for punk bands to have at least one ballad on new projects, while also maintaining the band's individuality when toning it down. The Huntingtons succeed on this track by plugging in half way through and intensifying each beat of the drum and strum of the guitar.
The array of musical sounds hasn't gotten The Huntingtons out of their habit of writing simple songs, though many of them are void of spiritual topics. That's not to say every project released in the Christian industry needs a quota of "Jesus per minute," but an album being marketed in Christian circles should be somewhat clear in its message. Instead, much of Songs in the Key of You has to do with relationships and growing up. Songs such as "That Guy Stole My Girl," "I'll Be Your Man," and "The Last Time That You Left" all revolve around the same theme of liking someone who may not share the same feelings. This topic is geared towards the group's mostly teenage fan base, who can certainly identify with the confusion and complication that can come from dating. Humor also abounds within The Huntingtons' songs, the best example on this album being "'80s Girl," which starts with a dated synthesizer sequence typically found in pop music from that decade (sort of like The Cars). The group will make listeners who grew up in the era laugh out loud with their allusions to various movies and celebrities during the song.
There's certainly nothing wrong with the topics of love and love gone bad on the album, but those who seek more of a Christ-centered message when listening to Christian music, will not be impressed. This project is yet another album that begs the question, "What makes music Christian?" The members of The Huntingtons embrace the faith but don't sing about it. Their music is sold by Christian retailers, yet rockers such as Lifehouse and Creed, who speak boldly of spirituality, are excluded from those same stores because they're not on a "Christian record label." Regardless, The Huntingtons are a solid band with a new album I'd recommend to punk and alternative rock fans, despite their lack of Christian musical content. Perhaps a band such as The Huntingtons uses neutral themes to draw people into their music with the hopes of sharing their faith with each individual person they meet along the way.