Settle Your Scores – ‘Retrofit’

By Sean Reid

2021 has seen an apparent revival for the pop-punk genre. Whether it’s the chart-topping Olivia Rodrigo hit ‘good 4 u’, or Travis Barker collaborating with names such as Machine Gun Kelly, KennyHoopla, WILLOW, and JXDN, pop-punk has become a hot topic again.

Despite it being “current”, you have to question how it will affect those with firm roots in the genre. Take Cincinnati quintet Settle Your Scores, for example; their third full-length ‘Retrofit’, comfortably ticks off all the tried and tested traits of pop-punk. Unfortunately, this makes them fall into a pool of bands that fail to leave a lasting impression.

On the surface, ‘Retrofit’ is a passable set of pop-punk songs. The opening pairing of ‘Meant for Misery’ and ‘QWERTY’ are executed with boisterous energy; the latter leans on their former easycore roots with crushing percussion, “na na na” group vocals, and a fist-pumping mid-section, while ‘Meant for Misery’, along with ‘Jenna Tools’ and ‘Staring At The Ceiling’, show Settle Your Scores’ ability to deliver infectious hooks.

Another advantage they have is the nostalgic factor. Besides its title, the quintet lean on it both on the record and online (their website is prime Geocities territory). Reminiscing about the past and wanting to be young again is nothing new, yet ‘1999’ borders on being corny, mainly due to the overload of cultural references, while ‘The Way Things Used to Be’ unexpectedly plays on the usual “regretting the past” trope.

‘Streets Ahead’ maintains the theme of regret and reminiscing, yet combines it with self-doubt, showing a glimpse of lyrical sincerity. This is further emphasised on closing track, ‘Everafter’, with the repeated line of “will I ever be happy?”

As a collective, Settle Your Scores are consistent. Christian Fisher shows personality and strength in his vocal work, while comfortably exchanging lines back and forth with guitarist Ricky Uhlenbrock. Fellow guitarist Patrick Bryant, bassist Jeffrey Borer and drummer Caleb Smith complete a sturdy musical spine.

After three albums, it’s unfortunate that Settle Your Scores have yet to fully create an identity. Throughout ‘Retrofit’ there are brief flashes of their influences, with New Found Glory, Four Year Strong, All Time Low and ‘Anthem’-era Less Than Jake being amongst them. Their brand of pop-punk can be catchy, even relatable in places – and certainly laden in nostalgia – but it’s not quite enough to stand out from the crowd.

SÊAN REID

Three more album reviews for you

Angels and Airwaves -'Lifeforms'

Thrice - 'Horizons / East'

The Plot In You – ‘Swan Song’