Hellafornia is Dexter Danger’s fourth release—their second full-length. These guys have been making progressive impact in the world of music ever since they formed in early 2001, so you know their current material has got to be phenomenal. “Well, what kind of music is it?” you ask. “Because I like pop-punk, but not punk, and I definitely don’t like any of that emo crap.” I have to tell you now that I’ve never been good at putting music under specific genre labels. I have no idea if Dexter Danger is punk-influenced emo alternative rock, or alternatively rocksome emo punk, but whatever it is, it’s fantastic.
       There’s hardly a moment when you aren’t under rapidfire attack by Dexter Danger’s instrumental army. The drums are constantly switching from aggressive to barely a whisper to rallying your toes into the tapdance of their lives. The cleverly layered lines of guitar and bass, though sometimes overpowering, are energetic and intense. They sometimes have power struggles with the vocals, but listen carefully and you’ll find clever and honest story-like lyrics tangled amongst the thick vines of instruments crashing. The sum of these parts is a sound that manages to be dark, but not so much as to not be depressing. It’s rather catchy, really, and has that contagious-in-a-good-way head-nodding effect (hence the term "pop-punk", I guess).
       My first taste of Dexter Danger was the acoustic version of “Alta Mesa Drive” from the Drive-Thru Records/Purevolume compilation. I didn’t know what to expect about their normal—by that I mean non-acoustic—music, but I wasn’t at all disappointed by
Hellafornia. Though I’d been used to the softer sampling of Dexter Danger before I listened to an actual album, the rock-out side of the band was a welcome surprise.
       The album follows, for the most part, the tone set by the opening tracks. This isn’t to say that they all sound the same, because each song is unique thanks to awesomely composed hooks, verses, riffs, and lyrics. A lot of bands have trouble with differentiating between different tracks on an album, but there’s no sign of that in
Hellafornia. You have the sort of “upbeat assault” mood in each song, and the variations in theme give fingerprints to the individual tracks. Songs like “Trainwreck” and “System Overload” are dark-ish, “Far Away” and “The Rise and Fall of Erica Vallejo” are melancholy, and “Return to Sender” and the full-band version of the aforementioned “Alta Mesa Drive” are more emo than anything—but still with that unmistakable punk influence. All twelve tracks form a very solid, well-rounded album backed up by years of experience.
       All the same, the album is for some reason difficult to listen to all the way through in one sitting. It’s not that all the songs sound the same; you can disprove that for yourself by listening to two tracks at random. But unless pop-punk is all you listen to, the pure onslaught of a band so well representative of the genre can be a little too much. If you really are a pop-punk fanatic, though,
Hellafornia isn’t an album to miss out on. And for everyone else… pick it up anyway. Even though you won’t be clinging to it fanatically, you’ll be guaranteed to find at least three tracks you’ll genuinely enjoy.
...
A.A. '05
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       HELLAFORNIA
       
Orange Peal Records

1) No Disgrace Like Home
2) Trainwreck
3) The Rise And Fall Of Erica Vallejo
<< 4) System Overload >>
5) Alta Mesa Drive
6) Far Away
7) Honor Amongst Thieves
8) Return To Sender
9) Promises
10) The Angel That Got Away
11) Modern Day Sid And Nancy
12) See You In Hell
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