“This band is maturing…” is often code for getting boring. You see it all the time, but especially with punk rock bands. It’s really has become kind of a cliché. As with any accepted rule, there are exceptions. Signals Midwest are a great example of a band maturing doesn’t always mean getting boring. On their third full length, the band has crafted a solid 40 minutes of enjoyable, complex punk rock songs. There are some growing pains, but it’s a great record overall.
Light On The Lake is an excellent record. It showcases the maturity of the band, both musically and lyrically. It builds on the foundation of earlier records, but adds enough to keep things interesting. It would have been easy enough to remake Burn The Blueprints or Latitudes And Longitudes, but that’s not an adventurous thing to do. Especially given how much of the band’s lyrics frequently broach the topic of change (and, in some cases, the lack of it). This theme is all over this record. It’s approached as a physical thing and a mental thing. Recognizing the fleeting nature of things is kind of an obtuse thing to write songs about, but Signals Midwest make it work.
Light On The Lake is a melodic punk album, superficially anyway. There are gruff vocals, driving guitars, and killer backing vocals are abound. There is a lot more to it than that. There are some emo and indie rock influences in here. There’s also a fair amount of post-hardcore influence. This is most notable in some structural aspects of the songs. A song can begin as a straight forward punk song, but then go off into a mathy direction for a minute. Guitar leads are strong, and not generically “punk.” It’s not uncommon for a song to abruptly change and go a different direction all together.
It’s that tendency that is both the greatest strength and most glaring weakness on this record. On the plus side, it keeps the record interesting. On the other hand, it makes certain songs sound a little disjointed. “Lowercase” being an example of the former, “In The Pauses” an example of the latter. It’s not a bad thing, I suppose. It just feels like sometimes ambition got out ahead of the band. It’s by no means a deal breaker, but it can get distracting when a slow to mid-tempo song all of a sudden takes a right turn into quick punk song via an extended solo. Especially when it feels like it’s happening on almost every other song.
Let’s get back to the point though. Light On The Lake is a great record. It exists in a world where a punk rock record doesn’t have to be a “punk rock” record. It shows that bands can grow and mature without compromising. And, ultimately, isn’t that the point?