Goldfinger – Never Look Back (Album Review)

Into one of the grayest of years in recent memory a little California sunshine must come. And so Goldfinger, the titans of Ska Punk, return to gift us all with some glittering rays of golden warmth on Never Look Back. Big Noise delivers the album on Friday, December 4, 2020.

You are already well-aware that Goldfinger is known for their brand of Punk Rock that fuses Ska elements along with Pop sensibilities, creating a superbly catchy sound that begs you to listen. With their humble beginnings stretching back in time to 1994, these Los Angelinos have spent the past 26 years pairing their infectious sound with a passionate activist spirit, particularly when it comes to the rights of our furry friends. At least, that has often been the case as with the recording and subsequent touring on albums such as 1996’s Goldfinger, 2002’s Open Your Eyes, 2008’s Hello… Destiny, and 2017’s The Knife, among others.

Speaking of The Knife, their latest, Never Look Back, can easily be viewed as a continuation of its predecessor. Though its 12 songs take a slightly more serious approach, leaving behind the random witticisms of its sister offering, the album continues to offer fans quality material from a band that has more than proven their musical might. Marking the return of original Guitarist Charlie Paulson, the LP also features the usual suspects: Vocalist/Guitarist John Feldmann, Guitarist/Vocalist Philip Sneed (Story of the Year), Bassist/Vocalist Mike Herrera (MxPx), Drummer Nick Gross (Girlfriends), as well as Studio Drummer Travis Barker (blink-182).

Never Look Back, Goldfinger wastes no time in going for a massively infectious bop with “Infinite,” coupling galloping bass lines with the melodic three-pronged vocal demon that is Feldmann, Paulson, and Herrera. Initially based on the black hole of emotion inspired by COVID-19 and the ensuing quarantine, the song was heavily influenced by Paulson, who expanded its lyrics into thoughts of the future, what legacy we will leave behind, and, ultimately, conjured a slight political bent.

But rest assured that Never Look Back isn’t a political record. Instead the focus, as always, is on creating timeless, easily-digestible songs that will move listeners—to feel, to dance, and even to wistfully look backward in time. They do this with the relaxing Reggae vibes of “California On My Mind,” fast-paced Punk defiance of “Nothing to Me,” ‘90s influenced “Cannonball,” as well as the wistful “Golden Days,” old-school Ska of “Dumb,” and more.

In fact, the closest to a theme that Goldfinger offers on Never Look Back would be this appreciation for better times; stepping out of 2020 and directing listeners’ hearts back to better days. Take, for example, the Skank-inspiring beat and brass flourishes—thanks to Matt Appleton of Reel Big Fish, who appears throughout the LP—of “The City.” Traveling back to the days of being a teenage punk, looking forward to the bright lights and the next Punk Rock show, the track revels in its classic Ska Punk feel and its joyful, if simple, reminiscences.

Then there’s that idea of appreciating what you have in your life, a theme that crops up in “Wallflower,” “The Best Life,” and, most blatantly, in “Careful What You Wish For.” Toe-tapper “Wallflower,” as well as the lovely “The Best Life,” take a personal turn to pay homage to Feldmann’s wife. On the former, he allows his vocals to soar with passion for the woman he loves, while “The Best Life” reflects on the special world that the couple has created for themselves and their children. They show a positivity and grateful attitude that “Careful What You Wish For” lacks. Taking a stab at the other side of the knife (see what we did there?), this latter offering is a thoughtful duet between Feldmann and Save Ferris’ Monique Powell that explores humanity’s obsession with immaterial material things.

The ‘wild cards,’ if you will, would be “Good Guy” and “Standing on the Beach.” The former presents an ironically upbeat Pop-Punk feel to its sonics as Mr. Nice Feldmann entertains the idea of going ballistic and earning a spot on the Naughty List. But it’s the latter that stands out from the pack, sonically speaking, as the band doff their hats to The Cure and author a track that delivers some truly evocative ‘80s vibes.

So, like we said in the beginning, there’s no overarching concept to Never Look Back: no push to improve your mental health, and definitely no partisan politics aiming to sway your vote. Instead, Goldfinger has thoughtfully conceived a feel-good record that is aware of our world spinning off its axis, though it instead chooses to revel in the better days, as well as the beautiful people that we have shared them with. In succinct slices of life that span Punk, Ska, and Reggae, Feldmann and his cohorts take our minds to a better place than 2020. It’s not rocket science, but dammit if it’s not Punk Rock to the core! For the wistful memories, Cryptic Rock gives Never Look Back 4.5 of 5 stars.

In honor of the release of Never Look Back, and this writer’s birthday, Goldfinger will be streaming a release party from The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, on Thursday, December 10, 2020.

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