Such Gold’s sophomore effort The New Sidewalk is an ordinary melodic punk rock record with aspirations of complexity that don’t fully pan out. The riffs and rhythms are calculated and off-kilter. The average song possesses more individual segments (and minutes) than any of Such Gold’s previous work. Gone are guttural backup shouts and singalongs. But the advances make little room for the band’s former traits, ones that defined Such Gold as a pop punk band with a fiery temperament and an ear for melody. The New Sidewalk makes no glaring missteps, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression, either.
Bill Stevenson produced The New Sidewalk, so the record sounds exactly as it should. Such Gold capitalized on having the veteran engineer’s expertise at hand, and The New Sidewalk is unmistakably a product of The Blasting Room studio. The mix is clear and focused, granting appropriate emphasis on the band’s new tricks and stylistic ambitions. The sprawling “No Cab Fare” unfolds with nearly five minutes of tempo changes and labyrinthine guitar leads. “I Know What I Saw” boasts alternative rock in the vein of Balance and Composure. And “Engulfed in Flames” evokes Propagandhi, especially the excellent tones of the Stevenson-produced Supporting Caste.
The album’s best songs hint at a fusion of guitar prowess and melody, but those hints don’t usually materialize into fully realized ideas. “Frying in the Mix” serves lead riffs that are engaging on the surface, but the song as a whole fails to hit the right notes in the right places. The start-stop riffing of “Axed Away” is similarly promising, but the chorus is lacking to the point of undermining the preceding riffs. The skilled musicianship is there, as is the energy, but nothing outstanding comes of it.
The New Sidewalk ditches the pop punk spark of Misadventures, with mixed results. But while the band’s debut full-length benefitted from Kid Dynamite’s tenets — play fast, loud, melodic, and with a hardcore edge — The New Sidewalk favors technical dynamics. It’s less early Shook Ones and more Strung Out (there’s hardly a note of difference between the opening bars of “Nauseating” and Strung Out’s 1996 classic “Firecracker”), but crucially, the latter parallel extends only to these songs’ complexity. The songs are structurally complex, sure, but they’re not memorable.