Not As Cool As I Thought I Was is an intriguing collection of songs by the punk-rock band The First Rule. It encompasses a range of emotions from hope and nostalgia to contempt and rage. Each song left a unique impression on me and after replaying them several times, I decided to listen to their earlier music to provide a comparison. Half of the six songs on this extended player are as unapologetically punk-rock as ever, the other three lean gracefully toward their rock cousins, Indie and Metal.
“Better Days” begins the set with a fierce intro that showcases the talent of drummer Mike Wynn Jr. The track mellows by some degrees before lead singer Nick O’Malley launches into the positively uplifting message that the title suggests. With lyrics like “Life ain’t a race. Do what you want, take it at your own pace” it’s a tune that will start off the day right. This is a fast-paced, feel-good song with a great message about self-acceptance and living life to the fullest. Present throughout this EP is the familiar thread of optimism and social commentary that I know and appreciate in my favorite punk bands.
“High On Your Love” describes the type of relationship that all lonely, romantic souls crave. It’s a love song that will catch you with a cozy, Modest Mouse-like melody and hold you with its adorable expression of unconditional love. O’Malley’s low, recitative singing style fits well with the sentimental indie sound on this track, making it one of my favorites. My one critique has to be that the harmonization between the lead and backup voice, though an effective tool, could use some polish.
“It’s Never Too Late” is all nostalgia for me. Good Charlotte, Blink 182, there’s an unmistakable resemblance to classic punk-rock and the uplifting adult angst sound is invigorating. The upbeat tempo of the drums is matched by the quick downstroke of an electric guitar that never misses a beat. With lyrics about overcoming a toxic, failing relationship, it’s a must hear for anyone who is on an upward climb through life or simply struggling for the moment.
“My Time” has been caught in a loop in my brain since almost immediately after listening to it. It’s not a long track but the instrumentals hit hard, shining the light on Bo Ledman and Chelsea Corrin, the band’s skilled guitarists. This is an anthem centered on ambition and the path to success that we all travel, or attempt to. The inclusion of female singer Tawny Mitchell heightens the sound and provides an almost Evanescent quality. It’s an exceptional song that anyone can relate to, especially those of us whose calling is of an artistic nature.
“Nerd Rage” is a fun and silly mashup of punk themes and unrepentantly nerdy references. From video/p.c. games and card games to movies and anime, the message is Nerds Unite! and it’s one that I can get behind. Once upon a time being a nerd was an insult, and to some extent, it still is, which is baffling when in reality all things ‘nerdy’ are awesome. This song says ‘eff your straight edge standards,’ and I support it wholeheartedly.
The First Rule’s new EP is worth a listen from any punk-rock fan. It left me curious and eager to hear what other music they’ve been working on. I would love to catch more of that dreamy, indie-rock sound from them. There’s something for everyone here and I defy an audience to listen to these tracks and not get at least one of them stuck in your head.