Album Review: Fake Songs by Kyle Troop & The Heretics

Released in the twilight of the dubious year that was 2017, Kyle Troop & The Heretics’ Fake Songs is ten tracks of guitar driven anthem-punk with bits of dark magic and other distilled Southern flavors. This is an album of raging anthems driven by raw energy and sophisticated guitar arrangement. Part of this band’s abrasive style may (to the uninitiated of the pop-punk genre) trick you into sleeping on this release. Don’t fall for it. There’s plenty to unpack in Fake Songs, which gets better with each listen.

Fake Songs jump starts with a crazed procession called “Disco.” First of all, if the opening riff isn’t what Wario listens to as he blows up the good guys in Mario Kart, it really should be. It’s at once aggressive, primally simple, and perfectly arranged, all of which is representative of the superb guitar work throughout the album. Experience the opening of “Blast Off” as it puts the listener in the cockpit of a desert-busting land rocket with daring energy. Thrash to the brute engine of “In The End,” a confident backbeat jump that trips into a triumphant clarion of lead guitar.

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But don’t think that Kyle Troop & The Heretics’ talents are limited to mere guitar riffs. Beginning with “Running,” Fake Songs shines especially bright in the second half as dynamics and joyous grandeur take the stage. Troop’s aggressively “don’t give a f*ck” vocals calm down just enough to convey a heartfelt wistfulness without losing the carefree attitude vital to pop-punk. “In the End” showcases the better part of the band's aggressive side with impressive emotional range by Troop’s multi-tracked vocals. The guitars get better, better, and better still, with acrobatic lead guitar melodies interplaying with peaks and valleys of rhythm guitar, bass, and drums.

Things only get better from there. The final tracks of Fake Songs make a winning case for a really great album that stands with the greats of this genre. Troop’s vocals work best when they traverse the ebbing and flowing currents of the music in tracks like “Waking Up” and “We’ll Be Fine.” A perfect meld of vocal delivery, lyrics, and music blesses the chorus of “We’ll Be Fine.” This puts the listener directly into the experience of thinking and feeling the same thing Troop sings, cruising with the windows down, cigarettes lit, cares far behind.

“Van Culture” delivers an apt end to a surprisingly complex album. Troop & The Heretics ratchet up the energy with a fast tempo. Guitars kick into some of the most optimistic melodies in the album, and vocally Troop reaches deeper than ever with an unbridled energy I wish I’d heard more in the first half. Earlier songs on the album didn’t sit perfectly with me at first. Some minor instances of vocal delivery still don’t, but I can imagine truer pop-punk fans than I would disagree. But even if the bare-fisted aggression and cynicism in the first half of Fake Songs sits oddly in your stomach, I can guarantee there’s something to be loved in the second half. And in the meantime, if you aren’t gushing over the guitars like a toddler having his first Coke, I honestly don’t know what to tell you.

In short: Savor the guitars on your first listen. Stick around for the second half of the album, then revisit the rest. If you’re not a pop-punk initiated listener, do yourself a favor: let your guard down and ride along for a better experience than you will probably expect.

Favorite moment: tough to say, but it has to be the chorus of “We’ll Be Fine,” which is a perfectly coherent feeling of wistfulness and hope so rich you can taste it.