I know the story. It's the one of several near-bust band tales chronicled on No Room For Rockstars - The Vans Warped Tour. Although the four piece from Twentynine Palms, Calif., did catch one small break by the end of the documentary filmed in 2010 — being asked to play inside the fence instead of hocking self-produced CDs for gas money — it wasn't enough to know what came next.
What came next, of course, was being picked up by Pure Noise Records to produce a split 7-inch with label mate Handguns last November (a few months ahead of the documentary release). But what I didn't know is that Pure Noise Records also pressed them into the studio for a debut album.
Contender captures the right title for Forever Came Calling.
There is no doubt in my mind that they deserve it. While they're still too wet behind the ears to be champions, they make great contenders. Singer-guitarist Joe Candelaria, especially, is all heart when he belts out some heady and abrasive tunes to an audience that isn't always sure what he is singing about.
Seriously. One review I stumbled onto reads: "Who knows who Bukowski is? No one, but they sure inspired a great punk song." Seriously? Let me help the reviewer out. He's some guy who once said "Baby, I'm a genius but nobody knows it but me." And apparently Candelaria. It's their best track.
If Bukowski Could See Me Now parallels the author's experience with everybody. Candelaria has that tenacity too. The original band members, which included John Swaba (bass), funded their first six West Coast tours with day jobs. Bryce Esquivel (drums) and and Ron Grieger (guitar) aren't slouches either.
Front Porch Sunrise packs a punch because of where it comes from — an impassioned Candelaria who carries self-doubt in his back pocket as he marches on anyway. He had to. It was the only way he could find happiness. And it is this willful approach to life that kicks in an intense connection to anyone who will listen.
Sure, some of their music fits in with everything else on the pop punk circuit, but not all of it. Forever Came Calling is underpinned by sharp lyrics and some progressiveness. Once you get past the first two tracks, which are good but not nearly long enough to stick (barely averaging 60 seconds), Harbors and The Office lead into another standout.
Ides is permission to make mistakes. It's loud and almost angry as Candelaria growls that every experience changes you. If it wasn't for I'll Be Better I Promise, the rest of the album would be near perfect for these up-and-coming pop punk talents.
It's not that I'll Be Better I Promise is bad, but it is the only semi-apologetic track on the album. Take it away, and everything from Ides down — Bukowski, Front Porch, Contender, and Dead Poets Honor — are as convincing as they convey conviction.
All in all the album is packed with energy and aggression. I don't even mind that there isn't much diversity in the arrangements. Most of the songs are short enough to always leave you wanting more. I've looped it plenty of times.
Contender By Forever Came Calling Breaks 7.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Contender is everything that the band needed to not become "that band from the documentary." It was pretty clear they had talent on what little was shown of them alongside some bigger names. There was also no question whether they had enough heart. Contender puts any other doubts to rest. Poof. They're gone.
Contender by Forever Came Calling can be found on iTunes. You can order the CD from Barnes & Noble or download Contender from Amazon. You can check their tour dates on Facebook. And don't worry, this time they have their gas money covered.