RageQuit Album Review
This album could have been called REVENGE OF THE NERDS and, while it certainly wouldn’t have been as inventive or as twitter hashtag worthy, it would have been entirely and completely accurate.
Robots and Racecars are a pop punk band out of Philadelphia, PA and they want you know know that they love all the same TV shows, movies and comics that you do. Only they write catchy hooks about them. #RAGEQUIT (presented here with hashtag because like it that way) is their third release and it’s both a collection of nerd culture inspired and infused ditties and a chronicle of the last battle of the human race, which sees a robot army constructed to quell the zombie uprising. Yep, that’s all in one sub-40 minute album.
The promising news is for their existing fans and the ones just hearing about them for the first time is that the record is good. Nerdpop is becoming a genre in itself thanks to Youtube and the DIY ethos of every young, hungry band out there. Fanboyism is rampant in the teens and twenty-something crowd and sometimes it matters more to count the references than to be able to sing the choruses. Make no mistake, Robots and Racecars are nerds. And they make pop music. The difference is that the songs on #RAGEQUIT are songs first and nerd-friendly reference laden coalmines second. Sure. There’s allusions to Back to the Future, Doctor Who, Hunter S. Thompson, Grant Morrison comics and the video game laced alt-reality of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World but what matters is that the music and the songs are treated with respect. This is a band that is dedicated to making good music that is directed at a certain audience, not a band who has assumed that all it needs to be successful is compare being in love to Super Mario Brothers.
In fact, if I may be so bold, #RAGEQUIT is sort of like a Doctor Who season. There are the Steven Moffat penned main-story episodes (In this case, the songs that make up the four act Humans vs. Zombies vs. Robots apocalypse) and the freelanced out episodes that fill out the season with another kind of flair. The Mario song mentioned above, “Press Start to Continue” is pretty indicative of the second half. It’s an easy, light pop song with lyrics that clearly state a self-contained message that happens to rely on the most famous video game character of all time. If you find yourself smiling at songs like that, then the lion’s share of #RAGEQUIT is going to appeal to you quite nicely.
The standout for me is the leadoff single “Snatch & Grab,” which is a furious poprock party anthem. About holding up a bank. Which, honestly, may be one of the most genius fakeouts in pop music. How many acts are kicking themselves that they didn’t write a song with the lyrics “Come on get your hands up!” with the twist that the band is telling you to do so at gunpoint? Even after the novelty of the song’s structure and setup has worn off, the song remains a killer tune. Styled heavily off of early Brand New music, the song employs two lead singers and an energy that pulses right through your earphones. It’s infectious, it’s frenetic, and it’s three minutes of punk rock glory. If mainstream radio got a hold of “Snatch & Grab,” it would have legs. The song is a powerhouse and showcases what this bunch of geeks for Philly are capable of.
However, we’re ignoring the big picture. There is a war going on between the undead, a horde of cyborgs and the human race. So why not make a four part mini-pop epic about it? This suite of songs is the brainchild of bassist/vocalist Nicholas Reed. Seemingly, his fingerprints are all over this release, but it is here where the nerdocity of the band goes into overdrive and it’s a glorious overkill of screeching guitars, wailing and anthemic calls. Although the four act epic only makes up a little over a third of the album’s total running time, it’s this kind of stuff that could eventually push Robots and Racecars over the top in terms of internet and pop culture exposure. I mean, if Chameleon Circuit can gain a huge following by exclusively singing about Doctor Who, then why can’t Robots and Racecars be the Dream Theater of pop punk bands - creating epic, multi-part stories about worlds that only exist in science fiction? I’m all for it. Sometimes I need my prog rock ideas churned out in three minute sections with choruses I can sing in the shower.
All in all, Robots and Racecars seem to be breaking new ground in their third release. This is niche stuff to a certain extent. Those people who snicker at the word TARDIS or simply don’t see the humor in a song title named “1.21 Jigga What?” may not get much out of #RAGEQUIT. You don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy this album, just like you don’t have to be an adult to enjoy a Pixar movie. But it sure helps.
In a world full of bands and youtube stars who get famous simply by recreating and fan-editing their favorite shows and music, Robots and Racecars is out there writing and performing good music that just so happens to borrow heavily from the world of sci-fi, fantasy and video games.
Once again, you don’t really have to be a nerd to like #RAGEQUIT. You don’t even have to like pop-punk to like #RAGEQUIT. But if you really, honestly don’t like #RAGEQUIT, you might not be any fun.
#RAGEQUIT can be purchased digitally from Amazon.com or iTunes. Physical copies can be bought at the band’s shows and at robotsandracecars.bigcartel.com.