Pop punk is a genre littered with clichés; “I’m not sad anymore,” an unhealthy obsession with pizza, more lyrics about friendship than there are tattoos of Hank the Pigeon, the list goes on and on. It is a genre that the older crowd – including myself – tends to get tired of once lyrics about getting out of one’s hometown and leaving school stop being relatable. Every band formed out of the “new wave” of pop punk blends into the next and oftentimes I find myself asking “What band is this?” at shows, and being surprised that the bands had changed while I was outside. Now, I’ll admit, that familiarity – that formula – is part of why I love pop punk, but you need something a little meatier than a dozen “I’m not sad anymore”s.
On My Honor (Knoxville, TN) satisfies that craving for deeper, more grown-up pop punk with thoughtful musicianship and honest, but not immature, lyrics. 2011’s Nature and Nurture gave us a little taste of what the five-piece outfit could do. The EP’s positive nature made it a fan-favorite for sing-alongs and paved the way for their second full-length record. Little Heart Records put out I Never Deserve the Things I Need at the start of June 2013.
I Never Deserve the Things I Need takes a darker, different turn than anything the band has previously released. The standard glass-half-full anthems still remain (“Gypsy Summer” and “A Negative Mind”) but the record digs deeper than that, starting with the opening track, “Tired.” “Tired” is a short and almost understated introduction to 33 minutes of solid, honest pop punk. The idea of entitlement is touched upon “I never deserve the things I need/ I was meant to spend my life alone,” to be revisited in the next track, “Time to Heal,” a Paramore-esque look at what kind of toll the steps toward progression can take and how draining that can be.
The album’s title track continues the album’s discussion on entitlement, and it contains my personal favorite set of lyrics regarding the topic: “Despite every nightmare at my soul, I count it a privilege just to watch you grow/ No rest for the strong, if that’s how you’re perceived/ Too close, too close, you’re too close to me/ It’s what I craved and cried for/ I never deserve the things I need.” It nicely bridges the gap between itself and “Say It With the I,” with a drum solo at the end that continues into the intro on the next track.
After a brief acoustic, almost folky interlude with “A Negative Mind,” the record picks right back up with “Rafters.” The track easily contains some of the heaviest subject matter On My Honor has ever written about (“I think I died in the rafters that night/ Shocked to death, barely 25/ Limp limbs, heart electrified/ One burnt arm and an open casket for these friends of mine.”)
I Never Deserve the Things I Need’s single, “Indrid Cold,” easily has the most memorable guitar work of any song on the album. Reworked from a split with the UK’s Above the Underground, “Indrid Cold” fits perfectly both in the record and in a live set; gang vocals, a killer guitar solo and a fast-paced chorus make you want to get rowdy in all the best ways.
The record closes with “Present Tense.” The track is a blend of heavy and light; simultaneously asking “Why can’t I accept what’s offered to me?” and telling, “When I compare the past to my present tense/ I’m as clean, as clean as I have ever been.” The song closes with a well-placed set of “Whoa”s and another solid guitar solo. Drums fade the record to a close, leaving the listener with a sense of closure and completion.
On My Honor has written these songs that could have easily been boring, generic pop punk but instead are dynamic and breathe life back into a scene that I personally had become to get rather disillusioned and bored with. Records like I Never Deserve the Things I Need are the reason why I fell in love with pop punk, and why I continue to listen to the genre.