Usually when a band is described during a review as one that “wears its heart on its sleeve,” I stop reading. With few exceptions, this phrase is reviewer shorthand for contrived, overly-emotional music whose subject matter tends to dwells on the lead singer’s inability to form lasting, meaningful relationships with anything other than his diary. This is unfortunate, because that phrase should be used to describe the exact opposite; wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve should mean the emotions you convey in your music, whether that be the pain of unrequited love or an expressed desire to sacrifice a variety of four-legged creatures to the One True Dark Lord, is sincere and genuine.
Pop punk gets a bum rap in this respect, as the genre name itself denotes a palatable, consumer friendly style of music that leverages the punk aesthetic simply because it’s a tad edgy and fast drums sound cool. While many groups within the pop punk sub genre are certainly guilty of chugging out insincere, milquetoast garbage, Winnipeg foursome Triggers clearly care about the music they craft and fly the pop punk flag loud and proud.
One only need listen to the first few bars of opening track “Onward Upward” to recognize Triggers’ talent, both in musicianship and songwriting. To be sure, the five tracks found on this self-titled EP don’t break the mold and contain many of the classic pop punk tropes, however it is the subtleties that make this recording stand out. It is also rather apparent from note #1 that Triggers draw much inspiration, at least in terms of song composition, from Winnipeg’s favourite punk rock sons Propaghandi . While I’m sure it’s incredibly difficult to start a Winnipeg-based punk band without drawing at least a modicum of influence from Propaghandi, it remains a solid choice as there are many, many other terrible sources of pop punk influence.
Singers/guitarists Braden Wilks, Kyle Monkman, and Andrew Free harmonize quite well both vocally and with their instruments. As I mentioned before, what makes this recording stand out are the subtleties. For example, while I think we’ve all heard the opening chord progression of “Onward Upward” at least a few times before, drummer Joel Leonhardt’s tasteful use of double-kick flourishes and the off meter pause around the 2:30 mark keep the song fresh.
The EP’s second song “Structures” opens with a series of everyone’s favourite pop punk gang vocal, the “Woah-Oh-Oh.” Science has proven that it is impossible to write a pop punk EP without the inclusion of at least a single “Woah-Oh-Oh,” so it was inevitable that they would make an appearance but thankfully Triggers employ the technique sparingly. This actually points to a general theme throughout the recording; yes, all of the classic elements of pop punk find themselves on this release, but Triggers are good enough songwriters that they avoid criminal overuse.
Third song “Collected” best demonstrates Triggers’ love for Chris Hannah & Co. Wilk’s delivery of the line “You left me to my own devices, and I hope you fucking choke” is classic “Less Talk, More Rock”-era Propaghandi, and if “Collected”‘s subject matter was more focused on lifting the yoke of oppression through collective direct action and less on keeping it together after a messy breakup, it might be able to squeeze itself in between “Anchorless” and “Rio De San Atlanta, Manitoba” unnoticed.
Speaking of lyrics, Triggers keep the subject matter of their songs refreshingly positive. While “Collected” and 4th track “Gaining Ground” both allude to hardship, the overlying message in both is one of renewal and perseverance as opposed to “poor me.” That’s not to say the Triggers boys don’t try to tug at the ol’ heartstrings; “Gaining Ground”‘s refrain “The biggest of hearts are the hardest to mend” is…i mean.. OH GOD GUYS I MEAN SMACK DAB IN THE FEELS, RIGHT?
This is a solid debut EP that is very much worth a listen. As a new band, it’s clear Triggers are still attempting to find a unique sound, but their musical talent and good songwriting indicate that this is a group with the tools necessary to craft that sound, whatever that may be. So while at times a tad generic, the world would be a better place if most pop punk sounded like Triggers.
Written by Jesse Gainer