Crossed Keys is a punk band from Philadelphia, PA. I’m Just Happy That You’re Here is their debut EP. Looking to melodic ‘90s acts for inspiration, including bands like Samiam and Lifetime, the record is full of raucous, invigorating punk rock.
“A Single Action” kicks off the proceedings, meeting every expectation for a great track in this vein—drummer Steve Roche lays out propulsive beats, while bassist Andrew Wellbrock offers a melodic bass part at a blistering speed. This gives guitarists Beau Brendley and Dave Adoff room for classic guitar interplay, and they even take the opportunity to get a bit loose and discordant, but never in a showy way. The sad, yearning energy in Joshua Alvarez’s vocals is the final piece of the puzzle—with a commanding presence that doesn’t slide into sheer aggression, it’s just the half-in-half-out vibe that this particular brand of punk needs.
“Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” offers something a bit more anthemic. The darker riffs of the verse, along with a bright, eminently shout-able chorus, create a nice push and pull reminiscent of great punk rock. The energy continues to mount verse after verse, with subtle changes in the guitar parts making a kind of constant forward motion. It’s great songwriting, especially when the band sticks the landing on the breakdown.
“Vital Signs” has an explosive, major-key vibe. Clocking in at less than two minutes, it’s a classic piece of upbeat punk with a familiar progression, but the band inhabits it with their skillful performances. Not only is this song a nice shakeup for a record already brimming with darker emotional energy—it also is another sign that the band genuinely loves the music that they’re making. It’s hard to deliver this kind of performance by phoning it in.
“Daytime Television” has a deliberate tempo with a wordy lyric that gives the track somewhat of a Jawbreaker feel, particularly in the resigned emotional content. “I can’t talk about the stars / (I don’t know anything about them),” an excellent vocal call-and-response, speaks to the disconnect in feeling mired in the doldrums of everyday life. Finding that specific, complex emotion in a relatively short song is an impressive feat.
“Eastbound to Frankford” begins with a plaintive lead guitar wailing over a churning mid-tempo beat. Operating in nostalgia mode, Alvarez sings “yesterday is far more interesting to me” as he tells a story of an aging house-show scenester, reassuring that “you are more than just your years.” With some great “whoa-ohs” and a vicious guitar break, this is another high watermark for emotional expression on the EP.
“Notebooks” wraps up the record, starting with a peppier progression and some surprisingly fast riffing. The chorus begs to be screamed in a basement somewhere, with the perfect gut-punch of vocal harmony. The bridge, too, brings just the right amount of sadness and desperation to temper the triumphant energy of the rest of the track. With the rhythm section tearing into the track at full blast, the guitars at their crunchiest, it’s a great note to end the record on; it seems like a victory lap, letting the band leave it all on the field.
With stylistic and emotional cues drawn from some of the finest punk rock, Crossed Keys deliver an invigorating, vital set on their debut EP. I’m Just Happy That You’re Here brings years of collective experience as musicians to a sharp point, but manages to stay fresh and fun all the way throughout. If you ever need to raise a fist and shout along, here’s your absolutely guilt-free pleasure.
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