Taking a minor break from writing reviews (or just making the most from a week without anyone directly sending me a personal request), I have wanted to start this Talking Bollocks series for a while and am finally getting this started now. Lovely readers, I present to you my first “Band That Kicked Arse But Totally Didn’t Get The Attention That They Deserved”, or more snappily titled “The Underrated”.
Schoolyard Heroes are one of those bands that not a lot of people actively followed, but those who did absolutely adore them to this day. They developed quite the unique combination, which was one thing that seemed to alienate critics; with their female fronted, modernised horror punk delivered in their own unique manner.
Now, this wasn’t just the run-of-the-mill band just doing their own thing. This was actually a group of very talented musicians who were rarely off point. Sure, it took them a while to perfect their sound and blend, but each result was unique and enjoyable for all different reasons, going right back to their first full demo.
Right back to the beginning, they seemed to adopt a style of your typical American high-school rock band, but slathered in punk influences and entirely anti-pop culture. This is demo (as far as I’m aware being untitled) features bass player, Jonah Bergman, stepping up to a lot of the lead vocals, presumably for at this point most songs weren’t written with Ryann Donnelly as the band’s vocalist. Regardless, it is interesting to hear the band’s raw sound with the male vocals, especially the early version of their classic Girlfriend.
Their debut album, The Funeral Sciences, has pretty rough production values and was mixed down a little too loud and harshly, but is the peak of their raw yet catchier than Hepatitis era. Follow up, Fantastic Wounds, was a large turning point for the band, where they seemed to develop slightly more gothic tones but really sunk more personality into their sound. Ryann’s opera trained vocals are really put to use more, but the writing didn’t seem to click so well and the tracks aren’t consistently as solid as their other work. That said, there is something strangely satisfying by the grandness of the likes of Panic In The Year Zero and Rattlestar Anorexia that is completely unrivalled. Their final album, Abominations, was the second peak in their timeline. The sound re-adjusted and every strong element about the band amped to the max, The Schoolyard Heroes managed to create some of the most iconic music of the decade and what is possibly the catchiest Horror Punk single to date, Plastic Surgery Hall Of Fame. The final release was a Christmas Single, I Want Your Soul For Christmas, with all out punk B-Side Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel – definitely worth a listen.
Critics didn’t take to Schoolyard Heroes, but all for the same reasons why any non-commercial, unique, doing-things-your-own-way band gets slammed. If you give this band the time to realise what they are about, there is so much to enjoy; Steve Bonnell’s guitar work is pure fire, backed up by epic bass lines and drums that burst life into every corner of the records… the music was always on point and incredible to hear it all come together. On top of that, Ryann’s vocals added a major twist which seemed to be the make or break for people. In my personal opinion, this is the female fronted band, if any, that people should think of for the time. None of that poppy-commercial sounding bullshit that you usually hear, Schoolyard Heroes crafted their horror punk roots into some epic alternative/hard rock for one satisfying experience that their fans still haven’t forgotten.