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Boys Like Girls – Boys Like Girls

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Aug 15, 2016.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    10 years ago, it didn’t seem like Boys Like Girls were going to be a band anyone cared about a decade after the fact. Skyrocketed to success by Purevolume and Myspace, Boys Like Girls seemed inextricably tied to the mid-2000s even when they were just getting started. You need only look at some of the bands Boys Like Girls toured with in those early days (Cute is What We Aim For, Hit the Lights, A Thorn for Every Heart) to get a sense for what could have happened to BLG 10 years after the arrival of their debut record. Essentially, they’d have a handful of fans but not a ton of respect or clout, and they’d be cashing in on nostalgia more than pushing things forward in their music careers. Or they wouldn’t exist in any form. One of the two.

    To be sure, Boys Like Girls did suffer that fate in certain ways. At the time of this writing, the band hasn’t released an album in four years. Their most recent record, 2012’s Crazy World, was a pretty massive dud, peaking at 134 on the Billboard 200. (For comparison’s sake, the band’s self-titled debut charted at 55, while their sophomore record Love Drunk made it to number eight.) Like Cute Is What We Aim For, Boys Like Girls are also playing the nostalgia card. This month, the band is finishing up a 10-year tour for their self-titled record—their first real activity in years. Demand for the tour was so big that the band added seven extra dates on top of the original schedule. This year also saw a vinyl pressing of Boys Like Girls, which sold out in a matter of minutes and necessitated a second pressing.

    Still, while Boys Like Girls remain tied to the mid-2000s pop-punk wave, there’s something about them that feels different from many of their “neon pop” contemporaries. Indeed, if anything, Boys Like Girls feel closer to the likes of All Time Low and Butch Walker—two of the other artists they opened for in those early days—than they do to Cute Is What We Aim For, Cobra Starship, A Rocket to the Moon, or others of that ilk. Most of those bands don’t come up in conversation around these parts ever, and if they do, they are punch lines. Boys Like Girls, on the other hand, continue to earn lasting fandom and are pretty inarguably more respected now than they were when they were active. What set these guys apart from the rest of the neon crowd? And how could our corner of the music scene benefit from them staging comeback?

    The key to this whole equation has to be Martin Johnson, the frontman and main songwriter of Boys Like Girls. Right from the beginning, it was clear that Johnson had an incredible ear for hooks. In retrospect, Boys Like Girls is a bit juvenile from a lyrical perspective, but the melodies are hard to fault. Listen to songs like “The Great Escape” and “Thunder” and tell me they don’t still sound like hits. No pop punk act from the current wave has a grasp of hooks that even comes close to what these guys could do—and that includes radio pop darlings 5 Seconds to Summer.

    Johnson’s knack for melodies didn’t go overlooked. In the 10 years since Boys Like Girls arrived, Johnson has co-written some of the very best songs on albums from Avril Lavigne, Betty Who, Elle King, Mat Kearney, Gavin DeGraw, Blink-182, and others. His style is usually extremely distinctive: propulsive summertime anthems about youth and promise. It’s hardly original or groundbreaking, but put on something like Lavigne’s “17,” Betty Who’s “Glory Days,” or “Elle King’s “America’s Sweetheart” and tell me you can’t recall the chorus after a single listen.

    Fittingly, that’s where my story with Boys Like Girls more or less started: in the summertime and unable to get one of Johnson’s indelible choruses out of my head—even though I’d only heard the songs in question once. Boys Like Girls were one of the first bands I ever saw live, though that wasn’t because I knew who they were. On the evening of August 1, 2006, my brother, my brother’s best friend, and I made our way to Detroit to see Butch Walker play live. It was our first time seeing him—though certainly not the last—and my first concert, period. Needless to say, expectations were high. The first band on the bill was As Fast As, a surprisingly killer cross between outlaw southern rock and power pop. The second was Boys Like Girls, who I initially dismissed when they walked onstage because of their patent emo kid haircuts, their girl jeans, and their preponderance of eye makeup. Then they started playing “The Great Escape.” It took me until the first chorus to get on board.

    Usually, it’s tough for me to remember much about opening acts unless I’m already familiar with their discography. In the years since that night, I’ve come to view openers as something of a chore, an obstacle to get past to make it to the main attraction. I would rather not have this negative connotation, because I know opening slots are important to help bands climb the ladder and make a name for themselves. But fuck, I’ve seen some truly horrific opening sets over the years (the worst, a band called The Upwelling, nearly ruined a Third Eye Blind concert for me in 2010) and even some of the better ones were not memorable at all. Boys Like Girls spoiled me early on, though, because they played maybe five songs and I was still humming the hooks to three of them—”The Great Escape,” “Hero/Heroine,” and “Thunder”—at least a week later. “Thunder” especially caught my ear, with a chorus hook and a defining lyric that seemed destined to have lasting power: “Your voice was the soundtrack of my summer.”

    Contrary to popular belief, Boys Like Girls is not the best Boys Like Girls album. Listening to the record today, there’s a little bit too much teen angst for my taste. Suffice to say that, for people who dismissed pop punk as the whiny music of a generation convinced that no one understood them, this record probably didn’t force a lot of reconsideration. The ballads are particularly overwrought, like the “Drugs or Me”-lite “Me, You and My Medication” or the eye-roll-worthy “Learning to Fall.” The latter begins with Johnson proclaiming, quite earnestly, “Today is the day/The worst day of my life.” It’s all enough to make you cringe a little bit—especially if there was a time when you thought this shit was profound.

    Usually, Boys Like Girls is much better when it lets go of the angst and has some fun. “The Great Escape” is a pop punk “Thunder Road,” about the limitless possibility of being young and leaving your hometown behind for the first time to find something bigger. “Five Minutes to Midnight” conjures up a similar feeling, of summer nights with the girl you like where time seems to stop mattering. “On Top of the World” is arguably the album’s most poignant moment, written by Johnson about the passing of his mother. “Dance Hall Drug” is a surprisingly effective song about how modern kids grow up too fast. And “Thunder” and “Holiday” showed early on that Boys Like Girls were arguably the best purveyors of the 21st century power ballad. The former remains a staple of my end-of-summer playlist.

    As I mentioned above, Boys Like Girls is not my favorite of the band’s three albums. That title belongs to Love Drunk, which felt less self-conscious and more assured. Around the time that album came out, I remember reading Jason’s first impressions blog about it over on AbsolutePunk, where he said something like “this band writes pre-choruses like other bands write choruses.” Six years later, it remains one of the catchiest albums any band from this scene ever released, a pure pop effort that saw Johnson recognizing his band’s status as the heirs apparent to 1980s hair metal. Driven by Bon Jovi-style rockers and a few more skyscraping power ballads—one of which, remarkably, featured a pre-Grammy Taylor Swift—Love Drunk still holds up as a great album.

    I would be exaggerating if I said I could apply the same superlative to Boys Like Girls, but it’s still a mostly sharp set of tunes from a group of guys who clearly knew how to put together a pop song. Frankly, I think the scene needs these dudes back. They fell off the map after the somewhat country-influenced (and mostly boring) Crazy World, but with the songs Johnson has been co-writing with other people lately, I’ve got no doubt the dude still has it. A few months ago, a thread popped up on the forums posing the question “What happened to catchy pop punk?” Most of the current wave of bands from this genre—The Wonder Years, Neck Deep, Knuckle Puck, State Champs, Real Friends, The Story So Far, etc.—either can’t write catchy songs to save their lives or choose not to. Who can give us the hooks back?

    As if in answer, the past few months have brought an influx of older scene acts writing some of the most hook-driven music of their careers, from blink-182 to Good Charlotte. Fittingly, both of those albums can be linked back to Boys Like Girls. Martin Johnson co-wrote the title track on blink’s California, while Sam Hollander and Dave Katz—the core co-writers of the first two Boys Like Girls records—helped write one of the songs on Good Charlotte’s Youth Authority. With Boys Like Girls back together for a 10-year tour, Johnson still writing wonderful pop songs about young love and summertime, and guys like Hollander and Kats still presumably on the speed dial, I’d say it’s time to get the band back together. After all, there’s catchy pop punk to be saved.

    heymynameisjoe likes this.
  2. rxbandit89

    probably over-caffeinated. Supporter

    I really enjoyed reading this, and didn't realize Martin Johnson's songwriting credits were so widespread. I picked up the first album in a bargain bin a few years ago, listened to it maybe once or twice, and haven't touched it since. Funny thing is, as soon as I read that part of the article, I realized I STILL remember the chorus to "The Great Escape." I think I'll be putting this on during my commute tonight! Great piece!
    heymynameisjoe and Craig Manning like this.
  3. aniafc


    Saw them last week just after I saw blink-182 live, and they were way better live than blink was. I was actually surprised by that. When the tour was rumored I wasn't really what to expect, and then dates started selling out and I was like "holy shit." This guy even proposed to his girlfriend on stage at the concert and then I remembered how much this band really mattered to people 10 years ago.

    I'd love for these guys to write another album and see what comes out of it. "Crazy World" wasn't terrible, per se, but I think they could do something better than that,
    Craig Manning likes this.
  4. Luroda

    Consistently Lurking

    Holy shit, totally did not expect a headline about Boys Like Girls here in LOL.

    (in a whispering voice)

    ...I still listen to a whole lot of their self-titled and Love Drunk. That outro in Holiday is a gem...
  5. CMilliken


    Their ST is the only album I enjoy and own by these guys. The Great Escape is intertwined with some pretty awesome memories with some close friends.
  6. Their ST is awesome. The song Up Against The Wall is the best
  7. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I saw them live I think four times back in the day and they put on a pretty great show. High energy, good setlists, and they sounded good. Wish I could make one of the 10-year shows. Unfortunately, the tour wasn't coming anywhere near me.
  8. jorbjorb

    7 rings

    tight band
  9. aniafc


    Still have that energy and they sounded so good live. I was blown away by that.

    The 10 year show was nuts, the opening band in Ohio was strange. But they ended their set by playing a medley of 2000's "emo songs" that was great and hilarious at the same time.
  10. chavril


    Great write up. Such a solid album, I wish one the tour dates was closer to me.
  11. FTank

    Prestigious Prestigious

    Good stuff, Craig. I actually did feel BLG became a bit of a punchline eventually on AP, which is a shame because the self titled and Love Drunk are some of the best albums from that era of pop rock whatever. What I think these guys really nailed that these current pop punk bands are missing is that they really embraced the "pop" side. For example, I think State Champs has written some good hooks but the melodies never seem like the focal point of their songs, as if they're too focused on trying to sound "punk" or something. Just the impression I get.

    Also, I disagree that Love Drunk is better than self titled, but they're both great.
    partyscene and Craig Manning like this.
  12. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    That sounds like fun. I'm kind of surprised they sounded good live. They haven't played a live show in a long time. But glad to hear that the tour is good.

    I think they did become a punchline around Love Drunk, just because they were so "pop" and people around the site at that time didn't think that was cool. This was also back when the Taylor Swift fan contingent on AP was like two people. But I feel like they kind of bounced back, to the point where people were pretty psyched to see Martin Johnson's name on co-writes and stuff. And then this tour and the reissue showed up and people seemed super excited about those.

    Agreed that the modern wave is missing the pop, though I disagree that State Champs have very good hooks. Most of their songs are just so forgettable for me. They've got the sound down, but they don't have the hooks.
    partyscene likes this.
  13. FTank

    Prestigious Prestigious

    They're not BLG level, but songs like Losing Myself and All You Are Is History have solid hooks imo.
  14. thevoiceofreason


    State Champs have more massive hooks on the first half of ATWAB than Boys Like Girls' entire career
  15. FTank

    Prestigious Prestigious

    Yeah.... that's not close to true.
  16. TFT87


    Good write up! I would recommend anyone that's a fan of this band to pick up their DVD "Read Between the Lines". It contains a great live show as well as a comprehensive history of the band.
    Craig Manning likes this.
  17. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I liked their first record okay. It wasn't great, but I thought there was some promise there. I thought their second was awful, and almost completely hookless. I can't remember those songs at all.

    I'd flip this around and say there are more hooks in the first five songs of either Boys Like Girls and Love Drunk than State Champs has had or will ever have. I don't really think that's debatable either. BLG had songs on pop radio and landed high on the Billboard charts. State Champs aren't even beloved in this scene.
  18. iCarly Rae Jepsen

    run away with me Platinum

    wonder whatever happened to the girl from this song
  19. SamLevi11

    Trusted Prestigious

    I liked their debut back in the day, I remember being especially cringey with my first ever girlfriend by trying to cover Thunder for her.

    That said, everything else the band did was pretty rubbish. The second album had like 3 good songs and after that I didn't like anything I heard.
  20. thevoiceofreason


    Where to begin. BLG self titled peaked at #55 on the Billboard 200, State Champs went to #30. State Champs certainly seemed beloved when they had an absolutely massive crowd going nuts on the main stage at warped, and BLG is using a 10-year-old album to sell tickets after fading into obscurity with 2 almost lifeless albums and their singer pays the bills by writing paint-by-numbers pop songs for other artists. The quantity/quality of the hooks in their music are matters of opinion, but your remarks are most definitely debatable.
    Schooner likes this.
  21. SamLevi11

    Trusted Prestigious

    Comparing the musical landscape of now and 2006 is impossible, but I'd say State Champs will be far bigger than BLG were.
    Schooner likes this.
  22. aniafc


    And then their next album went on to debut at #8. BLG also has multiple singles certified Gold and Platinum, with their S/T being certified Gold as well.
    Jason Tate, FTank and Craig Manning like this.
  23. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    The reason Martin Johnson is even afforded the chance to write "paint by numbers pop songs for other artists" is that he can write massive hooks. Call me when the guy from State Champs has the same opportunities, which I'm sure he would gladly accept. (Spoiler alert: you will never be calling me.)

    By what metric could this possibly ever happen? Not trying to attack you, but I seriously don't understand how you can look at the respective band histories and think this.
    FTank likes this.
  24. thevoiceofreason


    If he is such a masterful hook maker, why was their last album completely devoid of them? I enjoyed BLG for a while there but put out one pretty good sophomoric album and then went straight downhill, and especially when compared to State Champs who have one of the best vocalists in the genre to come along in over a decade and two albums full of "Sticks and Stones" level bangers. To deny State Champs' catchiness is pretty ridiculous. You gotta be doing it on purpose for personal reasons. Are you one of those folks who doesn't allow themselves to enjoy Pure Noise bands?
    Schooner likes this.
  25. FTank

    Prestigious Prestigious

    Well, that went somewhere it didn't need to...