BAND: Social Circuit (Malaysia)
RELEASE: Borrowed Time (2018)
REVIEWER: Arthur Urquiola
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Since the mid-‘90s, it seems that every town in every corner of the world has had at least one Pop Punk band. The start of this trend could definitely be considered a “boom” period, with it making its way out of local scenes and into mainstream consciousness in varying degrees. It’s not difficult to see why as Pop Punk is an artform traditionally created by, and speaking directly to young people all over the world. Once inspiration hits, it also doesn’t take long before anyone and their friends can express themselves, play shows and write their own songs; creating something every bit as valid as the records which armed them with the confidence in knowing that it can be done.
The ease of access to the ins and outs of being in these kinds of bands, the fact that technical skill isn’t absolutely necessary and the proliferation of acts throughout the years (Pop Punk has rarely seen much of a decline since new generations have always seemed to latch on) means there has been a glut of groups out there – a lot of them very similar. At first, it looks like there’s little separating Malaysia’s Social Circuit from the scores of like-minded bands that have come before them. The artwork for the band’s new ep ‘Borrowed Time’ features a colourful illustration of a schoolgirl, evoking youth and love songs. Sure, it can be argued that these are themes many of us are immediately familiar with, but it’s not something we haven’t heard before either.
While many listeners find themselves being brought back to emo-tinged Punk Rock no matter what stage they’re in along their lives, the musicians that make up Social Circuit come from noteworthy backgrounds themselves – the breakdown heavy Hardcore group Mediancoast count some of its members among Social Circuit’s ranks, while Dean from the speedier Kids on the Move lends his inimitable voice to the project, although he flexes more a melodic muscle on the songs making up the ‘Borrowed Time’ ep.
‘The Room Is Never Cold Enough’ begins things with a hardcore stomp, but holds off on the bass, building tension for a short measure or two. There’s a monologue in the distance that sounds like Skeletor before the song fully kicks in. The vocals are easily likeable, the tune has a killer chorus and kudos to Dean for sailing on that register and not giving himself a hernia.
‘Perfection’ has more happening in terms of musical shifts, including Jawbreakerish, half time refrains. Throughout ‘Borrowed Time’ there’s a clear dichotomy between the fuzzed out rhythm guitar and the shimmering, hazy leads twanging and noodling alongside the vocals. It adds an Indie Rock edge to the arrangements, which is particularly effective here.
‘In Line’ is more subdued than the preceding tracks, but not to the extent that it disrupts the flow of the songs and it keeps the consistency of the ep while giving the song its own character and identity. In the latter half of the release there’s an endearing quality to the fact that the vocals do incorporate techniques typical of the genre (enunciating vowels similar to Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara without going into full Daryl Palumbo territory), while at the same time there’s an accent and twang letting the listener know that this isn’t a band out of California.
‘Dark Clouds’ rounds things up from a seemingly darker place lyrically (“can’t get a grip. Falling deeper and deeper in your thoughts. And the end is still not in your sight. You feel helpless and alone”) and the music follows, slowing things down and lowering the tone suitably. While the songs are smartly constructed throughout, of the four tunes on the ep this is the one that comes closest to straying from the formula.
There’s direct links between Social Circuit and past favourites – such as the earnest and nostalgic imagery of old Ataris and Saves The Day – and ‘Borrowed Time’ is definitely a Pop Punk record that was created after mid-late ’90s Emo wormed its way into a lot of Punk Rock and Hardcore. Any of the ep’s tunes can hold their own alongside a playlist featuring songs by bands like New Found Glory and Boys Night Out. The musicianship is tight, which can be expected from a band made up of members from other established acts. The keen sense of melody in the compositions on the other hand, belies the Social Circuit boys’ immediate Hardcore pasts.
At four tracks in 12 minutes, ‘Borrowed Time’ is a fitting title, with tunes that cover enough ground in not a lot of time. It builds on the early Social Circuit demos which surfaced in 2016, but here’s hoping that a full length drops sooner rather than later. It would be interesting to see whether Social Circuit could maintain their consistency through a longer collection of songs and whether any more individual traits would surface under these circumstances, which could carve them their own space further away from the rest of the Pop Punk pack. Regardless, ‘Borowed Time’ isn’t just a sign that new Pop Punk bands are still inspired to form after all these years of the genre’s existence, it shows that bands can also take it and move things forward.