After a slightly dodgy start with opener Right Where We Left Off - ironically the least Emo sounding song on the album (or maybe a clever introduction into the new rejuvenated band), Don't Let Her Pull You Down kicks things off on the right footing. It is typical high-school love and loss with a bit of homecoming-esque shouting thrown in for good measure. Jordan Pundik is excellent on lead vocals with some spirited backing from the rest of the band. Listen To Your Friends is just as punchy, with frantic vocals making way for an even more rushed chorus. The pace is relentless, all framed by wonderful guitar work. Lyrically this is predictable Emo fair, with thoughts arriving like an adolescent stream of consciousness: "Oh, just then I found a note in my pocket, it read 'I don't ever wanna see you again', and I guess that explains why I can't remember...the rest of the night...".
47 is a brief lull. The energetic delivery is there but the song lacks a solid structure. That said, the drumming from Bolooki is amazing. Truck Stop Blues is another short song but an excellent return to form (on an album that is only 36 minutes long, the longest track is 3 minutes and 44 seconds and most are around 3 minutes). The story here is that of constant touring with a bi-polar twist: "I'll never let this go, I'm in a different state every night...". Tangled Up (with the brilliant Hayley Williams from Paramore) is pure emo-pop perfection and the first signs that New Found Glory are still something special. The duel lead vocals combine to create a new voice. Again the guitars add a dynamic edge.
I'll Never Love Again pushes the right buttons but all in the wrong order and just when the album needs something a bit different, Reasons threatens a big acoustic ballad, the delicate opening strings soon lost under the waves of noise. The song quickly becomes a kitchen sink of sounds and ideas, particularly in the last thirty seconds, the classical guitars limping to a close after a bizarre moment of prog-rock. The militaristic Such A Mess is another variation on a theme and a simple idea complicated by twisting guitar riffs and rolling drums. It loses the plot slightly towards the end, when the overused stadium shouting starts to grate and the band forget the tune but it just about holds up.
Into the final trilogy and a guitar intro brings us two of the best songs on the album. Heartless At Best is the story of near self-destruction. Some more great lyrics to open with: "This smoking gun of a mouth of mine has many victims to it's name" and into another soaring chorus: "...If anyone gets to this point, stop yourself from diving in head first... onto solid ground". But it is This Isn't You that ultimately steals the show with everything working brilliantly and all centred round a simple melodic chorus. With a minute to go, a soft interlude brings back the energy with added layered vocals. Closing song Don't Let This Be The End is a positive note to end on but feels flat compared to the previous two songs. It starts to come alive in the final moments, after lots of repetition and annoying backing vocals, when the crowd chanting starts. It is ten seconds of brilliance that should go on for several minutes. But it never happens.
For a band who never wanted to be labelled 'pop', this album is packed with it. Every song moves at a relentless pace, full of noise yet light and breezy. The heavier forays of the band's 2004 'major label debut Catalyst are now gone and new producer Mark Hoppus (the band has no co-producer credits) gets the best out of them on each song. Vocalist Jordan Pundik has all the enthusiasm of a man who just signed his first record deal and played his first sell-out show, approaching each song with amazing energy with Guitarists Klein and Gilbert combining to keep the album fresh and new.
The usual problem with Emo is that you have to really be into the genre to like it. There is a common misconception that all Emo bands are full of spotty, skateboarding, mentally unhinged, angst-ridden teenagers who coincidently attract the same stereotype for their loyal fanbase. Not true. It is true however that Emo bands grow up and their sound evolves - some experiment with new directions while others embrace hardcore - but most stay true to their roots. And New Found Glory has done exactly that. The sound they had back when Sticks And Stones was released has now fused with the might of Coming Home. And after the disappointment of Catalyst and the questionable covers on From The Screen..., this is a great leap forward. These guys have been together for a long time (ten years is a long time these days) and it shows. Not Without A Fight is not earth-shattering or innovative but it lives up to its name; vibrant, tuneful and above all, it sounds like a band that really wants to be making good music again.
-- CS( for The Music Magazine)