Album Review :
Too Bad Eugene - Distance

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Label:People of Punk Rock Records
Release Date: September 14th, 2022

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  1. Talking Head
  2. Deconversion Story
  3. Non Grata
  4. Back To Life
  5. Distance (Feat. Ted Bond)
  6. Through The Window (Feat. Rachel Nigh)
  7. Stuck (Feat. Mercy Nigh)
  8. Take Another Shot
  9. Anectdote
  10. Get Back There
  11. Antithetical
  12. I Lost The World
  13. January 6th (A Prayer of Lament)

California based melodic punk act known as Too Bad Eugene, have just released their epic 3rd full length album via the label People of Punk Rock Records and I feel it’s their best so far. The band draws upon past influences, mixes it up with some modern takes and superb production style then delivers the goods the only way they’d know how to. All those group vocal harmonies and mass sing-a-longs are without a doubt sweet music to my ears. The 13 tracks run the gamut between a sense of discontentment and imbalance while looking toward hope and finding the strength enough to keep the fire lit and ultimately carrying on. The maturity of songwriting is definitely as one would expect from gentlemen having so much experience and knowledge from years spent playing their instruments and honing their skills. The additions of several guests like Ted Bond (Craig’s Brother) on “Distance”, Adam Nigh’s wife Rachel (Through the Window) and his daughter Mercy Nigh (Stuck) really help balance this album in directions one might not expect. Adam’s son plays the drums as well making this whole project somewhat of a family affair (as evidenced in the sentiments on ‘Stuck’). It’s rare that I find a album with little filler and I feel as though this album does not only the punk genre proud but makes a statement about the intersection of Faith and punk rock in ways most wouldn’t care to elaborate on. It’s not overly preachy politically or theologically and yet the songs ring true about subject matter and feelings that many debate in their own minds. Don’t get me wrong, there is some finger pointing and scolding but if you were paying attention since “At Any Rate” you’d know this is the music of Too Bad Eugene and come on now, it’s “punk rock” and a little opinion here and there is always welcomed.

First song on the record is “Talking Head” and it’s a solid intro to this 13 track album. The song is basically about “Talking Heads”, the ones beaming through your tv screen and/or device of choice, spewing out self help and preachy influence while living out a life of excess without real world intervention. That’s my take anyway and we all have to agree that at times these “televangelist” and “self help” gurus without so much to say are often times bleak and depraved within, offering little help to those struggling. Their bumper stickers slapped proudly across the backs of mom wagons and luxury suvs aren’t enough to “save” anyone and serve mostly as self-promotion for those talking heads. Musically it’s a quick tempo, in your face pop punk track with plenty to say and backed up by delicious harmonies and familiar, driving guitar rhythms.

Phantasmic talking head neither alive nor dead
No flesh and bone for bearing load or breaking bread
So I’m shutting off your screen I’ve had enough of you
I don’t need your disembodied bumper sticker truths

Track 2 is “Deconversion Story” and there is a lot to unpack here (the first of many ‘unpacking’ stories ha). This is a story, a simple tale that seems as all the too familiar in the realm of Christianity and especially among those “deconstructing” their Faith. It’s really about falling away but feeling some resentment and what I take as a little remorse, maybe even some regret. If you’re a former Church musician, Church member, Volunteer, Teacher, etc. you might feel a part of you identifies with the girl in question. Whether you are male or female, the lesson here is universal and can be felt among all people regardless of background or sex. We’ve all had our moments of feeling burned, of that disconnect between worshiping our God on our own time and being torn between commitment and duty. I’m sure there are people reading this right now who’ve recently disconnected and deconstructed from the “Faith” but just know you’re not alone in your struggles and that you were never alone in your walk with God. As much as mankind burns us and jabs that jagged blade in our backs, there is a certain overwhelming sense of hope that is a contributing factor as to why we believe in the first place. That unwavering sense of Faith and commitment of sharing our Faith is the continuity between all generations and the lasting favor that connects us all throughout the ages. Faith is very real, the Bible is real, and Jesus Christ is without a doubt, REAL. God doesn’t change, man does. Despite all the darkness flooding our world and our hearts at large, those tears flowing freely down your face, stinging with the realization that you are loved is enough to convict even the hardest of hearts. Like I said above, there is a lot to unpack not only here but throughout this punk rock opus. Remember, these are just my thoughts as author of this review and I am freely able to convey my emotions through written words typed on some 22 year old website, showing it’s age through cracks in the screen and worn-out paint bleeding through electric currents and circuits. Agree or not, this is a solid album. *Sorry for getting sentimental and preachy, but I’m feeling it*

Tonight this world seems so much bigger
Like she’s first opening her eyes
Yeah tonight this girl’s found a new vigor
And ready for a fuller life
But time pulls on its trigger
Shooting down those tales we write of our lives

Track 3 is “Non Grata”. This was the first “single” the band released a year ago in lead up to this full length. It is one of my favorites. I’m sensing some abandonment and pain, a feeling of disconnect and utter loss. The sound has a brief “American Idiot” guitar similarity at the beginning but once the vocals cut in, that link draws to a close. This is a great pop punk song and I love the sentiment. I have felt that pain of loss and feeling let down by those around me. Feeling a sense of loneliness and pain, drowning in a sea of sorrows, like just a total let down but drawing upon God’s unwavering love to bring us back to the surface. It’s beautiful, it’s punk rock, and what more could you ask for?

I’m sinking don’t let me drown
This is when I need you most right now
Did you think I’d drag you down?
Who will pull me back up to ground?
I look there’s no one around
Oh God keep me breathing in and out

Track 4 is the second single released a year ago prior to this album release. “Back to Life” is classic melodic punk rock and what Too Bad Eugene has become world renown for in their short discography. Love the harmonies and background vocals. Just beautiful. This song begs us to ponder the back and forth struggle to maintain a certain semblance of normalcy in a world gone wrong. Balancing hope with a very real human emotion and that nagging of unresolved feelings. Being caught in this back and forth game of life, feeling chained to the ground we walk on only seeking to break through all the hopelessness with a new passion to end our slavery to those choking hands of defeat. Finding that light in the darkness to pour out our pain upon the feet of God and to overcome the darkness, breaking the shackles once and for all. We all feel that defeat and especially when you reach middle age, you feel that suffocating feeling of finding balance between now and what’s to come. Meeting fate head on and walking hand in hand with my God. That’s my take away and you’re all free to draw upon your own conclusions.

Cause what if I was really free
And not directed irresistibly by fate
Or shackled by determined certainties
But summoned by a higher love to elevate

Then I could stop waiting for life to come
And start squeezing every ounce of life from each day
Invigorated by the power of
The light that overcomes the darkness and the grave

Track 5 is “Distance” and features some guest vocals by none other than Ted Bond of the much celebrated band – Craig’s Brother. The song is about falling out of favor with someone close, about being disconnected and longing to reconnect once hearts change. Once the person finds it in their heart to accept someone for who they are, then you’ll close the distance. It’s a rather upbeat song soundwise and has that classic Too Bad Eugene sound, more in common with “Moonlighting” (album). It’s a little slow during the first few lines but once that chorus kicks in, the song takes on a whole new direction, soaring with those vocal harmonies and Adam’s unrelenting and strong vocal delivery. This is a solid melodic pop punk song with back up harmonies, strong and quick drumbeats, and fierce guitar/bass work.

For all those years I did it all your way and I could still show you the scars
But when I did you turned your face away, at least I know now what you are
So I’ll keep my distance

“Through The Window” is track 6 and this one slows it down a bit. I mean the heat is on the fire but the flames are starting to die down. Don’t worry those flames will leap and blow with fiery intensity in the songs to come next. This is a fun little song, a duet between Adam and his wife Rachel. If pop punk met country music, this is what it would sound like. It’s a beautiful sentiment that not just Adam and Rachel share but can be relatable to any of us in a lifelong relationship. I’ve been married for 24 years (together for 26) and I sympathize with this song. Life has its share of struggles, hills and valleys, trials that even the strongest among us aren’t prepared for. But just know that the unwavering commitment a couple share to one another and the guiding hand of God, will bring them through the darkness. Sometimes it’s hard to see past what’s in front of you but when you travel together, you’ll feel this certain binding light and understanding of what it takes to be strong. Nothing harder than raising up a family and traveling unknown roads with broken headlights but once you’re on that same road together, it all begins to make sense. Rachel’s voice sounds great on this as does Adam’s and together its really a good song and an unexpected punk-country duet.

I looked through the window out upon the coming years
And I see miles of rough road but you should know that I don’t fear
Because these miles and bitter trials through this while bind me to you
And so as long as we hold strong to our bond we’ll make it through

But still I find no road and fear blocks out the signs
So I go to the unknown with you, with you

“Stuck” is track 7 and another strong quick tempo punk rock song with a guest vocalist as well. On this song, Adam’s daughter Mercy takes over as guest vocalist about halfway through the song and her voice fits perfectly with the music and message the song is trying to convey. This is the perfect post-covid punk anthem if that makes sense. All of us that were “Locked up” (and punished) because of Covid restrictions understood what it was like being at home for an extended stay, spending time with those we love the most. Leaving behind the grueling routine of work and school and just spending quality time with each other was a certain life lesson we all learned the past few years. The song has that same Too Bad Eugene pop-punk feel with group harmonies and really cool guest spot by Mercy adds to the flavor of the song in a most epic way. Her voice kind of reminds me of Belinda Carlisle and maybe the vocalists from The Bombpops and Bad Cop, Bad Cop. I’m sure she wasn’t intending it to be a punk rock delivery, but it works out perfect in that setting and helps this song soar.

Lets take a walk to the cliff by the beach
Turn the zoom off that’s no way to teach
Lets get outside and remember how lovely the world is
All the crazies with theories online
Shut it off leave all that noise behind
Come set the table lets eat laugh and thank God for his gifts

Cause things get so clear when you slow down
You can see what really counts
For me that’s you three I live around
You’re the joy of my life

And I love being stuck with you
You’re my family you’re my crew
And whatever I lose
I don’t wanna go back to
When we had too much to do
Cause I love being stuck with you

The next song (track 8) is “Take Another Shot” and it’s a message of childlike innocence being lost in the static of lost opportunities. Fighting off the negativity and finding strength when you’re knocked down. It’s a quick tempo punk rock number both in style and length. While short, it’s a great song nonetheless.

And I don’t ever wanna hear you say you’ve stopped believing
And I don’t ever wanna see your in face despair
Lick your wounds and pick yourself back up just don’t stop dreaming
Take another shot and know that I’ll be there

The next song (Track 9) is “Anecdote” and oh boy is there is some fun stuff here to unpack. The song is only 1min49sec but it’s weighty in content. I’m posting the entire lyrics to the song below and feel free to dissect for yourselves. I’m in the camp of being absorbed into blissful ignorance and pretending certain things aren’t happening, feeling afraid to find out the truth. We know it’s true. We’ve seen this kind of “Fan” and I’ve experienced it myself (I ran a booth for IVM at various concerts and booked shows back in the day. “These guys aren’t Christian enough”, “This isn’t ‘Christian music’ this is a blasphemy!”, “Christians wouldn’t do this or that” #offended….. I think I may have had a cd sold back in the day that got returned a few times. On the other hand, there were the fakes and frauds but guess what, truth always has a way of bubbling to the surface. Lot’s of band break ups have plagued our scene don’t you think? Anyway, I am sorry to all the bands for feeling those insults and I am sorry to all the fans that felt the need to label things a certain way to fit their outlook. Christian this or Christian that, good music is good music and we all need a little substance in our lives, am I right? “It’s a shame what religion is reduced to when purveyed as consumer products”.

He bought our CD from us just before we played
During our set I saw him stand beside the stage
Afterward he came back and wanted a return
The name of Christ a shibboleth he never heard
So absurd his convictions made him stupid but i learned sometimes its not worth it

He liked this other band with cheesy Jesus songs
When they played I saw him sing every word along
But backstage their singer was vulgar and depraved
He sold a fiction and the suckers gladly paid
It’s a shame what religion is reduced to when purveyed as consumer products

“Get Back There” is another short one, clocking in at 1 minute and 20 seconds of pure punk rock joy. It also Track number 10. Longing for those days past and bridging the nostalgia with present time. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. It has been 20 years since the last Too Bad Eugene album and final song on “I’m Your Biggest Fan 2”. Although what feels like a lifetime has passed in all our lives, the driven nature of our spirit and unshakeable passion for this music we call home is enough to call us all home. “Get Back There” is a rallying cry to shake off the dust and find your rightful place in doing what you love.

Been thinking about old times and missing you
As I’ve been flipping through old pictures
The thought got in my head that those days were through
But I’d give anything to bring them back

When you sang my songs with me
With your fists pumping in the air
That’s right where I wanna be
I’m fighting so hard to get back there

I’ve lived another life since those old days
And I wouldn’t trade a minute
The Lord’s been good to me in so many ways
But I’m still asking him for music back

When you sang my songs with me
With your fists pumping in the air
That’s right where I wanna be
I’m fighting so hard to get back there

“Antithetical” is track 11 and it’s another doozy (wow Adam, you’re on a roll with making people unpack your songs ;). This is a great one, and has a solid melody and vocals. It has that flavor I love in pop-punk and Adam’s unforgettable vocal strength really ties it all together. This song simply put is about healing our ties to one another and fixing broken bridges, putting an end to division. This is a short, under 3 minute punk rock song but don’t let time length persuade you into turning the dial (or pushing the skip button or swiping left or right for you kiddos). It’s weighty in content but all we want is to work out our differences without further divisions. Sometimes it’s tough though to speak truth to people without hearts open to receiving such knowledge or a brain that isn’t set up to accept reality. I know you could probably read into this song a bit deeper and see it as a play on words about the two sides warring it out for equal time with hopefully the one preferential side to wherever you fall, winning it all. We all know better than that and we should be smarter to see that we are all pawns in this game of politics and life. It is beautiful though to see things through a lens of child like innocence, loving one another for who we are inside and not trying to change each other but rather just listening, and learning.

And we’re bound to divide if we only see one side
But all I want is to make you face your fear of others and see them as sisters and brothers now
Resisting calls to fear and doubt lets work it out

I’m not playing for the opposition
You’ve got to move beyond your tribalism
Rejecting hate and greed
And reclaiming our creed of love forgiving sin and grace for everyone that’s it

That’s all I want and I’m not saying I’m any better, I’m still standing with you even now
(All I want)
Cause it’s not hate but love that we’re about
(All I want)
If we’re children of one God let’s work this out
(All I want)

Now we lead up to the final 2 songs on the album which I feel are not only strong punk rock material but subject matter that’ll leave you thinking and definitely thought provoking if you will. “I Lost The World” is song 12 and it is deep lyrically and thematically. From the moment the instruments peddle on through the intro and into first line of the song, you know you are in for a ride. This song tells the story of someone who committed all they were into something they thought would lead others to a greater understanding only to be left abandoned, forgotten, left to blow like dust in the wind. I know this story and I know it well. It’s hard sometimes to rise up and shake off the ashes of everything you thought you knew. We’ve all been burned, we’ve all been made like sand slowly dripping out of that hourglass being crushed by time. Forgotten like yesterday’s trash and disregarded as someone without relevance. Truth is, we are all worthy of relevance. No one is more or less important while traversing the hot, cracked, and weathered asphalt our feet travel leading up to that final step into heaven. I’m sorry, I truly am, to all the fellow believers, friends, acquaintances, and those feeling a great deal of unworthiness. Man, my heart hurts for them. We as Christians need to do a better job at loving and less opportunistic. I’ve watched so many rise up, so many fall, some come back, and others disappear into the trees like they didn’t exist in the first place. Come on people, we are losing a generation of people because our heads are screwed on backwards. As much as I blame social media for the sense of loss, I also blame humanity for swallowing this darkness like an relenting addiction to be fed. This song is beautiful. This song is true, and this song hits hard. You get the entire lyrics for this section because it doesn’t make sense for me to explain it all in my own understanding (or misunderstanding). What you may consider to be naivety, I call it hopeful optimism and the reason I continue on with this hobby of Indie Vision Music is to share my hope and feelings I have toward reaching others through the bands, songs, and music of artists we share a common thread with. I’ve always been an advocate for substance in music and I feel songs like this one challenge our own preconceived notions of what truly is “Christian” music. Now if only Nashville could wise up and release music like this…. I lost the world, I lost myself, I died and I descended into hell. I lost the world and those scales fell. You taught my soul to sing that it is well

I was a young prince of a kingdom rich and bright
Wisdom, stature, and favor I had
But my own people they have cast me from their sight
Thrown down from heaven to a barren land

I lost the world, torn in two,
And it called in question everything I knew
I lost the world but I found you
And remembered that’s exactly what you do

In my abandonment I waited for your call
And rose at every sound I thought a ring
You took your time and when you take you take it all
You gave me thirst so I’d yearn for the spring

I lost the world I lost control
You emptied me so you could make me full
I lost the world and gained my soul
I was broken and you came to make me whole

They built a city with a tower to the skies
And I tried every door but all my keys were wrong
I was the lonely sheep they left for 99
It took so long to realize I don’t belong, I don’t belong

Down by the waters you said “let my people go”
But your people never wanted me to stay

I was a young prince of a kingdom rich and bright
Wisdom, stature, and favor I had
But my own people they have cast me from their sight
Thrown down from heaven to a barren land

I lost the world, torn in two,
And it called in question everything I knew
I lost the world but I found you
And remembered that’s exactly what you do

In my abandonment I waited for your call
And rose at every sound I thought a ring
You took your time and when you take you take it all
You gave me thirst so I’d yearn for the spring

I lost the world I lost control
You emptied me so you could make me full
I lost the world and gained my soul
I was broken and you came to make me whole

They built a city with a tower to the skies
And I tried every door but all my keys were wrong
I was the lonely sheep they left for 99
It took so long to realize I don’t belong, I don’t belong

Down by the waters you said “let my people go”
But your people never wanted me to stay

I lost the world, I lost myself
I died and I descended into hell
I lost the world and those scales fell
You taught my soul to sing that it is well

The last song on the album is “January 6th (A Prayer of Lament)” and this is deepest content wise of all the songs on the album and difficult for me to unpack fully. I really hate getting political and God knows we have enough division already. The sound of this song is just dang perfect for melodic punk rock and one of the strongest Too Bad Eugene songs that serves as a perfect closer to this most incredibly epic album. “But how can you end it like that, Brandon”? Should I go there? January 6th sucked, big time. We all know it because we’ve now been reminded of it incessantly, without delay or commercial break. It’s like ingrained in our psyche, our consciousness that politically we hate the elephant, praise the donkey. Orange man bad, old man good. We’re not so blind that we can’t see through the charade and the confusion. Its all really a result of muddied information being spewed in all direction by battling interests and individuals intent on the destruction of everything we know and love. Those people on January 6th were dummies, idiots for trying to overthrow the United States Government. We saw a lot of people out there with protest and then slowly led up to this chaos that is really an unbelievable moment in time. This song is a prayer through song to bring us all together, out from the smoke and ash, to find some semblance of unity. Nobody cares what I believe and it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I love good music and I feel drawn to this album. Do I agree with every single word, song, or phrase, from the musicians I listen to? Of course not and if I did, how would I be challenged, how I would learn, and how would I would see things differently even if for brief instant? If we would all just press pause on this moment in time then fast forward a few years, I think it would do us all some good.

What have you to say?
Is this how you had planned it?
Or have you walked away?
Because I would understand it

They go to seek your kingdom storming violently
And as they speak your name they serve your enemy
And I watch it all wondering where you are

What am I to do but count myself a sinner?
No better than them
But when they hide the truth behind their lies and slander
I wonder where you’ve been

Where’s the fire and the sulfur pouring down?
Where’s the rising tide to drown the wicked out?
You see it all with such an awful patience

You bound us to yourself and poured your Spirit out to dwell
Among us and sent us out to tell the world of you
Look at us now, look at us now

Cause if you’ve seen enough of this then burn it down
Yeah we’ve had enough of this so tear it down

If I were to choose some favorites from this album that’s tough. I really enjoy the songs – “I Lost The World”, “Talking Head”, “Stuck”, “Antithetical”, “Take Another Shot”, “Get Back There”, “Anecdote”, and oddly enough, even “January 6th (A Prayer of Lament)”. “Through The Window” althought a bit different and a change of pace, is enjoyable nonetheless. If there was any least favorite song that I’d be forced to pick, you can just take me at gun point because I ain’t about to do that. The prior singles of “Non Grata”, “Back To Life”, “Deconversion Story”, and “Distance” are also some of my definite favorites.

The response I’d like to convey about this delightful album and other like-minded “reunions” is this: If an artist can still deliver consistently without missing a step and aren’t being programmed like robots from some evil producer mastermind twiddling the knobs from a dark lair, then I feel bands like Too Bad Eugene, Craig’s Brother, Five Iron Frenzy, MxPx, The Blamed, Living Sacrifice, Further Seems Forever, Stairwell, Dogwood (you know we need more from them right?), and the others I’m forgetting to name, can all continue on until their flame is extinguished. If Keanu can battle against an unrelenting supply of assassins in John Wick then there is room in our music scene for legacy artists putting out some of the best music of their careers except in this case, with less violence (sorry Keanu).

This album reaches that rare 5 out of 5 score by me this year. I’ve only given out two other “5” scores in the reviews section this year (seek and ye shall find). I feel this solid album deserves such a coveted score and achieves excellence that some of their peers are still trying desperately to achieve at half the age of Too Bad Eugene. Job well done men (and women).

Make sure to stream/download/purchase this album. It is available on a few different formats including CD and Vinyl so click the links above to purchase (you can buy through bandcamp or the People of Punk Rock store also). Kudos to People of Punk Rock Records for putting time and effort into both Too Bad Eugene and Craig’s Brother, among their many other great artists.

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