After being compared to groups like Good Charlotte and Simple Plan in the early 2000s, New Found Glory went into the studio to record an album that would change the perception that they were just another pop band. From that desire to create a heavier sound and clarify that New Found Glory was indeed a punk band, Catalyst was born. Although the same lovable pop punk sound is still an evident presence on the band’s fourth and most successful album, what elevates it to an even more memorable status is its ability to mix in heavy metal and new wave influences while still retaining its appeal. Catalyst not only contains some of New Found Glory’s heaviest work, but some of their catchiest as well. Lead singer Jordan Pundik’s nasally voice is take-it-or-leave-it, but fans of the punk genre will likely find the rebellious, crude nature of his vocals to be endearing and enjoyable. These same characteristics that apply to Pundik’s whiny but impassioned vocals can also be said of the entire album, as Catalyst is New Found Glory’s lasting masterpiece. With honest and relevant lyrics, a greater dedication and emphasis on heavier guitars and drums and an infectiously lengthy play time, Catalyst separates itself as the band’s best work.
After letting everyone know that this album is going to be heavier with a short burst of aggression on “Intro,” New Found Glory assures its fans that this different style can coexist with their catchy, pop punk sound on the album’s first single, “All Downhill From Here.” This energetic and fun song provides a good look at New Found Glory at their best: sharp guitar riffs from Chad Gilbert and Steve Klein, the fast-paced drumming of Cyrus Bolooki, a superb bass line from Ian Grushka and Pundik’s nasally vocals, which serve as a direct contrast to the heavier sound but somehow complement it in a perfectly punk way. This leadoff track is the best Catalyst has to offer, made apparent by the simple but engaging and memorable chorus: “Catalyst, you insist to pull me down / You contradict the fact that you still want me around / And it’s all downhill from here.”
Although there’s a heavier influence on the album, New Found Glory also shows no problem slowing things down for the sincere “love” song “I Don’t Wanna Know,” which gives a romantic, youthful perspective on the big first date (much like Blink-182’s “First Date”). The addition of cellos and violins to the already soft guitar and bass riffs gives this ballad a soothing and endearing nature as Pundik carries listeners through that unforgettable first encounter with a newfound lover.
Though the majority of Catalyst is filled with familiarly poppy punk songs, “Over The Head, Below The Knees” offers a more brutal experience, complete with stinging lyrics, heavy guitar riffs set to a slower pace and Pundik’s desperate questioning “Can you tell me what I am aching to know?”. From Gilbert’s opening guitar chugs to Pundik’s stabbing interrogations, this song has an acute sense of urgency and angst and separates itself from the pack because of it.
With the release of their fourth studio album, New Found Glory found a way to deliver a similar brand of pop punk goodness while still asserting themselves as more than just another pop band. Catalyst‘s emphasis on creating heavier and more frenetic guitar riffs and drum beats pays off in the end, as they combine perfectly with Pundik’s lighter vocals and catchy choruses to create a uniquely addicting punk experience. A lengthy run time will give fans of bands like Sum 41, Yellowcard, The Wonder Years, The Starting Line, Blink-182, Green Day, Set Your Goals, Hit The Lights, Senses Fail and Four Year Strong plenty to enjoy, although the album does lag a bit near its close. However, Catalyst leaves a lasting legacy for the band that hasn’t been topped since. And although some fans will be turned off by the album’s heavier direction, Catalyst represents a highly successful and appealing merger of two distinct rock styles that deserves the recognition as New Found Glory’s best work.
Final Score: 9/10
Rank: 1st (seven total albums)
- All Downhill From Here
- This Disaster
- Truth Of My Youth
- I Don’t Wanna Know
- Your Biggest Mistake
- Doubt Full
- Failure’s Not Flattering
- Over The Head, Below The Knees
- Ending In Tragedy
- At Least I’m Known For Something
- I’d Kill To Fall Asleep
- No News Is Good News
- Who Am I