The fourth studio album Up from U.S rockers Pop Evil marks both the next step in their accelerating career and a new outlook for the band. Now settled into their five piece line up and record label (they once tore up their contract with Universal Music live on stage), Pop Evil took a step back to rethink how they conduct themselves both on and off the stage. Arriving at the conclusion that to make music for a living is both an “honour and a privilege”, this release assumes a more positive outlook. Frontman Leigh Kakaty even committed to sobriety throughout recording to really focus on creating Up.
Not to say that Pop Evil have turned tail and forgotten how to rock, a fact that is very much in evidence as the album kicks in with lead single Foosteps. An anthemic opener with stomping beats and the refrain “Go higher, go higher” to set the tone. Canny enough to recognise that live shows are where bands make their mark today, Up is destined to translate to the stage and deliver a full throttle rock show. Looking back to their youth, when live music marked the best times of your life, Pop Evil have set a chart to keep audiences fired up with tracks like Core and Take It All. Kakaty’s vocals touch on the confrontational force of a Zack de la Rocha or even Fred Durst, guitars have a satisfying pounding feel in true rock style, all backed by solid drumming from Chachi Riot.
Truly looking to the fire of youth on this album, Pop Evil have also reached back to the era of their own youth. Moving out of their native Chicago, Up was recorded in grunge stronghold Seattle with producer Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam/Soundgarden/Foo Fighters). Under Kasper’s expert guidance, Pop Evil have brought the unmistakable echoes of grunge to this release. Calling up Alice In Chains on Lux with its looming bass intro, racing riffs and growling vocals on Vendetta deliver the same effect. The thirteen tracks are interspersed with some great stadium ballads; If Only For Now in particular channels the beauty of bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden in their quieter moments.
Rock and roll might look like a crazed, whisky soaked hell-raiser in leather pants on the surface, but it seems that behind Pop Evil’s energy, it is the steely work ethic that has formed a really solid rock album in Up. Not only is it refreshing to see a band put pause to their whining, but apparently it makes room for some of their best work to date.