Reviewed by Ian Morales.
For more than a decade, Cruiserweight has been bringing the best Austin Music Award-winning, female-fronted pop-punk the Red River music district has ever known. Now, the local veterans have released what is the final album of their career, The Smith Tower. For current Cruiserweight lovers, it is both momentous and sad. For critics, it is another Cruiserweight record. That’s both good and bad, depending on which side of the Cruiserweight fence you fall.
From The Smith Tower’s opening track, “Witness,” listeners will hear vintage Stella Maxwell singing along to another boppy pop beat, singing with the same cadence and semi-nasely style that makes her distinct. It sounds annoying when worded that way, but it has always worked for Maxwell. “Witness” has the signature punky doo-wop chants they have always used. It’s fun, but a little overdone for long-time fans. Either way, like a guilty pleasure, listeners won’t be able to help but chant along.
The punk side of the album is showcased on tracks like “Bones” and “Haven.” Both are reminiscent of the early part of last decade’s pop-punk boom that had old punks complaining about how “Warped Tour sucks now.” No catchy, sing-along, chanty, hand-clappy crap here. No cliché “whoa-ohs!” to sing along to. The bottom line is that both tracks have a punk backbone but are still pop enough for Top 40 radio listeners of the world to enjoy. Both are completely iPod worthy.
Far from perfect, The Smith Tower is heartbreaking and ear-wrenching at times. “Center of the Universe” is a bad, ‘60s-pop-style la-la song with nothing to pull the listener in. “Jumping The Shark” was another unusually bad surprise, so untypically Cruiserweight. Long story short: It’s boring and droney at times. Even what would have been a good song, “Gang Slang,” still managed to ruin itself with a bad voice encoder effect. Stella Maxwell’s voice is good enough to not have to do that sort of thing. Voice encoders need to be saved for the talentless pop tarts of the world.
The Smith Tower is a must-have for current Cruiserweight fans. They need it to complete their collection from one of Austin’s best bands of the 2000s. For pop-punk fans not familiar with Cruiserweight, avoid The Smith Tower and pickup both Sweet Weaponry and Big Bold Letters. Those albums will help you understand why we are so big on Cruiserweight here in The Live Music Capital of the World.
Red River rating: 5.5 out of 10