Possessing all the charming naivety of a group of 16 year olds at prom are Ohio pop punk quintet Settle Your Scores; in their four year stint as an outfit so far the bands unashamedly youthful exuberance has seen them garner attention from the right areas – their sophomore effort Better Luck Tomorrow is their loudest statement yet, in some ways more positively than others.
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! meets Four Year Strong inspired riffs find Settle Your Scores rarely settling upon a single idea to push forward with throughout Better Luck Tomorrow, giving it an unpredictable snap when everything clicks, and a sinking lull when the concept becomes jarring. Nevertheless the punk crew spend much of the record sounding at least interesting as they search for their true musical home.
The choruses of album opener ‘On The Count Of Three’ and ‘Dead Man Stalking’ are where Settle Your Scores sound a little unsure of themselves and which direction would be best for them to take; the result is your standard, less than enthralling, generic pop punk number that you could find on a mid 2000’s compilation CD. With that said, SYS find scale and poise more often than not throughout Better Luck Tomorrow; ‘Zero Hour’ is begging to be blasted in the beaming sunshine while ‘Your Teeth Vs The Pavement’ is a sharp around the edges pit inducer full of venom.
The one-two of ‘Keep Your Chin Up And Your Expectations Down’ and ‘Stuck In The Suburbs’ is where Better Luck Tomorrow finds its missing piece of the jigsaw – punching punk verses give way to seismic choruses full of hook. It’s evident here that when Settle Your Scores are at their most simplistic and inspired they’re capable of swinging fists with the big boys of the scene.
With the concept of pop punk meets metalcore pretty much being mastered by A Day To Remember in the late 2000’s, it was always going to be a difficult ask for Settle Your Scores to release something unexpected and invigorating; but there are moments here where the band make a name for themselves and build a bridge that can potentially lead to domination. But by this same token, hopping between genres always comes across with a sense of indecisiveness unless it’s done to perfection; and the ballad-esque ‘My Reason To Come Back Home’ feels tokenistic and wildly predictable in its romantic approach, which may leave a bad taste in the mouth of those searching for strokes of originality and splendour in their pop punk.
Better Luck Tomorrow is a pop punk record full of attitude and a zest for bigger things, and when everything falls into place it’s hard to not see Settle Your Scores catching on fire in the pop punk community. There’s work to be done here, and with what’s been put on show thus far it would seem that sooner rather than later the band are going to have to pick a definitive lane, but for the time being: blast this in the sunshine with your mates and you’ll have little less than a great time.