EP Review: Cliffhanger - Self-Titled
Chicago and pop-punk have been synonymous with each other since the mid-1990’s; early on with bands like The Bollweevils and Screeching Weasel, in the late 90’s/early 2000’s with Alkaline Trio, Allister, Fall Out Boy, Mest, and Showoff, and currently with Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, and Cliffhanger – the latter who have a brand-new self-titled EP (releasing on 1/10/20). Following the tease of lead single “After Sunrise” and the success of it’s follow-up “Hollowed Out,” Cliffhanger pulls you into the album with “The Oaks,” offering crispness in the guitars and the energy that a great pop punk band needs to have as they lead you through each verse to a sing-a-long chorus that will have you shouting along with the “whoa oh” as you pump your fist in the air. However, as you press forward into “Diane,” it showcases an entirely different side of the band as it leans on an intricate melody and odd (albeit perfect) time changes that challenge the normal formulas to deliver a powerful punch that sets Cliffhanger on a whole new level –these are the defining characteristics that we hear throughout the EP on other songs such as “Ivy Wall” and closing track, “Forever Ago.” There’s just the right amount of angsty fuel in the vocals to encompass the lyrics and keep them in the forefront, balancing against the bounce, drive, and catchiness of each of these songs. Over the years, any local scene’s dynamic is going to change as it evolves. However, leaving the original influences at the heart of what the new generation’s bands are doing is the key to keeping it strong. Cliffhanger certainly honors the original pop-punk influences of their Chicago home base, while also masterfully weaving their own touches into their sound to give them a forward thinking, pop-punk feel for today’s modern era. There’s a long list of great pop-punk bands from Chicago, and Cliffhanger can proudly add their name to it with this release.