MxPx – Before Everything & After: What if MxPx made a Good Charlotte album?

(the first 3 paragraphs are a slight modification of what I wrote for an Amazon review)

The headline kind of gives it away, but this album definitely sounds like a cross between early/late MxPx and Good Charlotte. You can see on Wikipedia and other places that this was part of a 3ish album trend where MxPx moved more towards the pop part of pop punk. Kind of interesting coming back to it now. I was listening to MxPx albums as they came out in the 90s, but fell off with The Ever Passing Moment. I even briefly joined the fan club and still have the shirt. Because of Reese’s interview on Mike Herrerra’s podcast, I recently started listenign to their self-titled album, which sounds like their early stuff except with lyrics that match grown men the grown men they now are vs kids they were when writing Teenage Politics.

While you’ll find tons of folks complaining about this stretch of pop-ier albums, I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about it. This album is a good album on its own. And it could be a great gateway album to get someone into MxPx with this “softer” sound; afterwards they could move on to the more punk sounds of either their earlier or later albums. I will say, this album is a really big improvement (for me) over The Ever Passing Moment. I wish I’d hung on to my fandom a bit longer to hear this album. I might have stayed along with them all this time. Rather than rediscovering them after 15 years. At the time, though, I was moving on towards a more club sound as well as rap and was moving away from exclusively Christian music to listening to everything. 

So, to sum up – if you’re a new MxPx fan, you *may* find this album to be too strong on pop. It’s also VERY rooted in the time it came out. Then again, if you’re like me and literally like “everything” (eg my top artists last year were, in order: Five Iron Frenzy, Billie Eilish, Relient K, Anberlin, The PDX Broadsides, I Fight Dragons, Vampire Weekend, The BeeGees, and Childish Gambino) then you may not mind a different sound. If you ONLY like hard punk, this is not for you AT ALL. If you’re randomly coming across this album, I think it’s a good album that kind of tracks what a lot of pop-punk was doing in the early 2000s.

Here’s a track-by-track analysis:

1. Before – a bunch of clips from the album, including one that doesn’t appear on the album and appears in a different form on one of their B-Sides collections.

2. Play it Loud – MxPx seems to have at least one of these songs per album: a song about being in a band. Like other songs they’ve written on the same topic, they reject the allure of being famous, they just want to have their music career. This one sounds manifestly the most like Good Charlotte mixed with MxPx. This one’s a banger that I’d love to hear in concert.

3. Well Adjusted – Another song that sounds like Good Charlotte. (I could also maybe hear some eras of Green Day) This song is VERY 2000s. It’s about taking pills to be alright. Aligns with a lot of what was in the air at the time that we were being overprescribed pills to make us conform. Jimmy Eat World’s “Pain” tackles a similar topic. I think now, in 2020, we’re much more in a place of acceptance that some people need chemical help for their issues. (Even if pharmaceutical companies continue to prove themselves to be untrustworthy). But back then fair game for a bit of a poke.

4. It’s Alright – This one sounds a bit more like MxPx as in their previous two albums. That “voice sounding like it’s coming from a crappy radio” sound is definitely a 2000s thing.

5. Brokenhearted – First of a trio of songs about things going wrong with relationships. Wonder what was going on with Herrerra or whoever wrote the songs. Sounds very originally MxPx and would probably be a standout along with track 2 for a song that would probably be acceptable to a modern MxPx fan. Least immediately 2000s song on the album.

6. First Day of the Rest of Our Lives – This song makes me think of a song that could have been on Blink-182’s “Enema of the State”. Some of the chords, the way it ends, and the way Herrerra sings some of the verses seem similar. The song’s about the day after a breakup.

7. Everything Sucks (When You’re Gone) – Continuing the breakup triptych, a song about life having less meaning now that the breakup has happened. Doesn’t remind me of any particular band, but definitely feels of its time.

8. Quit Your Life – A spiritual successor the “Move to Bremerton”, but way slower. It’s funny, with some of the background (a synth or mandolin or something?) it sounds like The Beatles by way of Pop Punk. In an album full of longer songs (earlier MxPx songs rarely went past the 2:30 mark), this one is definitely on the longer end. I think that may be part of what some fans were rejecting in this era of MxPx.

9. More Everything – Interestingly after the respite of track 8, this one seems to present a relationship teetering on the edge. It might fall back into happiness or it might lead to a breakup. This one sounds mostly MxPx, but a little (maybe 5%) mixed with Blink-182.

10. Kings of Hollywood – For a band SO known for being from Bremerton, WA – this is a strange song. I guess the band either lived there for a while or recorded one or more of their albums there? Or maybe the narrator is fictitious? Topically, this seemed to be in the air in the 2000s with Weezer also writing a similar song, among others. In fact, this song has an early Beach Boys lick to the guitar in parts that sometimes were reminiscent of Weezer and other similar bands. I’d be surprised if this song didn’t end up on the radio back when the album was new. “Left Coast Punk Rock, that’s our scene” interesting lyrics in a song that’s almost the least punk on this album. Especially compared to early and later albums. 

11. The Capitol – This song sounds almost EXACTLY like the MxPx songs I know. This could have been on the latest album, sonically. Lyrically – it seems to be their Christian song for this album. Written before Herrerra had lost his faith or perhaps even if struggling, wrote it because it was expected of the band.

12. On the Outs – ANOTHER breakup song. Or at least a big fight with your significant other. Were things going really badly for Herrerra and crew at this point? Another MxPx song – that is to say, it sounds like them and not like any other bands making music at the time.

13. Don’t Walk Away – The previous song rolls into this one in a way that doesn’t quite work as well when listening digitally – none of programs get it quite as seemlessly as CDs do. The opening with the cymbals makes me think of Shaft, but I don’t know if it’s just a common cymbal pattern that I’ve associated with Shaft. The music, especially with the piano, almost sounds like a lost U2 song that they gave MxPx to play. It’s VERY odd. Also, very in line with 2000s. This is around when that U2 iPod commercial came out. Seems to work very well with On the Outs (which I guess is why one song rolls into the other). Basically, your girl was fighting with you (your stuff on the lawn – in the previous song) and now he’s begging her not to leave. 

14. You Make Me, Me – Another MxPx sounding song, even if it’s a bit more pop than their usual. It’s about how great the person (maybe the one from the previous two songs) makes him feel. It’s got a lot of lyrics relating to Christianity – having recently heard another of their older songs where he rewrote those words, I wonder how they’d sing this one nowadays.

15. You’re Not Alone – A classic MxPx song from the drum beats to the guitars. I think the only thing that makes it not like those older songs is that it doesn’t switch to another song halfway through. 

16. After – same as Before. (track 1)

My favorite songs on the album:

  • Well Adjusted – if the lyrics are a bit politically incorrect nowadays, the music is fun and I can hang with the irreverant lyrics.
  • Play It Loud – a great song to get the blood pumping in the morning
  • Don’t Walk Away – I like the music in this song even if I hope to never have to feel like the protagonist in the song
  • You Make Me, Me – I just like everything about this song even if nothing about it rises up beyond most of the others.

Overall, as I said before looking at each track individually, I think it’s a good album and I think it might have sustained my interest in MxPx if I’d discovered it at the time. The future wife and I (or maybe already wife – depending on exactly when it came out) were mostly listening to Relient K and Anberlin. (Plus a random assortment of other bands) But writing this out also makes me realize a good nearly half of the songs are very MxPx-like. So maybe it’s the songs they chose for singles or promotions that make people think the album was a huge departure. Or maybe, like when I was listening to this album the first couple times, it’s those first few songs that sound the most like MxPx was trying to fit into 2000s pop-punk that sets the listener into a certain frame of mind even if later songs on the album sound like classic MxPx. It’s hard to say for sure. What’s not hard to say is that I bought this album and MxPx (2018) at the same time and I replay MxPx a lot more than I replay this album.