The many faces of Mike Herrera: pop punk band MxPx, the country tinged Tumbledown, and Arthur. Ten years ago, Arthur started as a side project to MxPx. They described their sound as "doo wop influenced" but, listening to their single EP, Loneliness is Bliss, they had added some early rock elements and more introspective lyrics to the MxPx pop punk formula. Arthur got back-burnered by MxPx's busy schedule and never delivered the full album they had started. Herrera has resurrected the band and recorded Watch the Years Crawl By.
The new Arthur is more polished, but the melodic lines and love focused lyrics follow the earlier mold. Where Loneliness is Bliss kept some rough punk edges, Watch the Years Crawl By is smoother. Much like Tumbledown and MxPx, Herrera delivers on the "snotty boys with guitars" sound I love. Songs like Cold Outside and America could be Bowling For Soup or any of a number of similar bands. They're well crafted, packed with hooks and attitude.
Arthur summons some of Robbie Fulks' early rock sound on Be Still and Out of the Blue. This latter could have easily fit on Fulks' Let's Kill Saturday Night. The arrangements are simple, but the chords avoid the blues style rock changes. Herrera's heartfelt vocal delivery sells the songs.
The simple guitar arrangement leading off To Have and To Hold sets the earnest mood for the theme of discovering love. The build into a tortured sound of separation for the bridge. There's a similar flowering build in Thought a Lot, the only song carried forward from the earlier EP.
The odd song out is Fortissimo, which is dark and moody. The descending, bass heavy sound remind me of Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. It transcends the other songs' simpler arrangements and sentiments. This contrast proves to be the perfect balance to the rest of the album, adding some gravitas.
Watch the Years Crawl By is a nice addition to Herrera's catalog. It's a different line up, but it's not so far out from Tumbledown's style. Satisfying like a perfectly brewed Munich Helles beer: simple, but with reasonable depth.
(Arthur is available from the MxPx store.)