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Devils & Angels

Mêlée

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Album Review

A name like Mêlée — with all its complicated diacritics, with its suggestion of violence — suggests that this Orange County quartet is standard-issue modern punk, perhaps even being a band that tends toward the harder, brutal side of things. Names can be deceiving, however, since their 2007 major-label debut, Devils & Angels, is something entirely unexpected: a genuine pop album, one that's informed by new wave but winds up sounding like a good rock record from 1985. Much of this sounds learned second-hand from Ben Folds but Mêlée is notably lacking in Folds' perma-smirk. Even the cover of Hall & Oates' classic "You Make My Dreams" is done sans irony: unlike many punk covers, this is a celebration of song, not cheese. If Chris Cron, like many of his peers, has a voice that's a bit too thin to be memorably on its own accord, it works well with the band's exuberant feel and it delivers the hooks simply and cleanly. Plus, they have a way with hooks, particularly on the exhilarating "Frequently Baby (She's a Teenager Maniac)," which would be a smash at any time there was either pop radio or MTV. It may be the best moment here, but the rest of Devils & Angels proves that it's no fluke as it showcases the rare punk-pop band that places a greater emphasis on pop than punk to often addictive results.

Biography

Formed: 1999 in Orange County, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Pianos and a melodic sense greater than the usual punk-pop thrill set Orange County's Mêlée apart from their peers. Chris Cron (vocals/guitar), Rick Sanberg (guitar), Ryan Malloy (bass), and Mike Nader (drums) formed the band in 1999 while still in their teens, and eventually signed with the Hopeless Records affiliate Sub City. While elements of punk revivalism and emo tinged the ends of Against the Tide, the quartet's debut for the label, Mêlée is much closer to the songwriting-driven modern rock...
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Devils & Angels, Mêlée
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