Label: Epitaph Release date: 21/07/09 Website: Set Your Goals at MySpace Right after the first time I heard Set Your Goals’ first record, ‘Mutiny’, I immediately put it on again. And again. And again. Their awesomely positive, non-stop energetic dual vocalled onslaught of occasionally pirate themed hardcore-influenced pop punk (or ‘easycore’, depending on who you ask and if they’re an idiot) quickly became one of my favourite things ever, a perfect summer record, a perfect walking/cycling/singing/dancing soundtrack. It came out three years ago, and the only thing to tide fans over was the MySpace release of new track ‘The Fallen’ about a year ago now. ‘This Will Be The Death Of Us’, then, has one hell of a lot to live up to. To be honest, it doesn’t really come close. Although not trying anything new, Set Your Goals aren’t really doing the same thing – they’ve lost their spark. Much of the poppy charm that made ‘Mutiny!’ so fun is gone, and 'This Will Be The Death Of Us' is far more cynical, lacking a lot of the positive bro-core energy that they previously displayed. Oh, and there’s no pirates this time. ‘Mutiny!’ also flowed together perfectly, from beginning to end, and whilst ‘This Will Be The Death Of Us’ has similarly connected songs, with short intro or outro tracks scattered here and there, the songs feel much more separate from one another. There are also a bunch of guest vocalists on the album, including Vinnie from I Am The Avalanche and Chad, the guitarist of New Found Glory, also known as the ex-singer of Shai Hulud and current singer of International Superheroes Of Hardcore. There’s also (gulp) Hayley Williams. Y’know, from Paramore. And that is a bit of a problem. Although her attempt at hardcore style vocals sounds like that Natalie Portman rap song from Saturday Night Live, Hayley’s vocal performance is not a particularly bad one. She keeps up with the boys and offers a punchy change of pace, but she sticks out a whole lot more than the many other guest stars present. For one thing, she is the only female vocalist on the album and male pop punk singers have a tendency to all sound pretty much the same, and for another, she is the only singer that is given an introduction: the music pauses, and Hayley asks ‘Can I get in on this?’ before it all starts again with her contribution. It kills the flow of the song and, as the probably most famous guest, is incredibly gimmicky. Another problem is acousticy instrumental interlude ‘Arrival Notes’. Whilst it is pleasant and sweet, it ultimately slows any momentum that was built up previously. Whereas ‘Mutiny!’ built and built, barely slowing down before the last song, the closer here, ‘Our Ethos: A Legacy To Pass On’ has to build up energy again and, with only four and a half minutes to do it, almost doesn’t make it. ‘The Fallen’ is the highlight and it’s such a shame, because any dedicated fans will already have played it to death. Frantic and fast with far more energy than many of the other tracks, it is the only one that would not feel out of place on the band’s debut. The gang vocals are great, and the message of staying true to yourself and your youth is an uplifting one. ‘Summer Jam’ is one of the poppier outings, with the occasional synth input and verses that bounce along. At 38 minutes, ‘This Will Be The Death Of Us’ is ten longer than ‘Mutiny!’, and lacks the quickfire urgency and ‘over as soon as it’s begun, leaving you desperate for more’ feeling that was so important in the bands’ debut’s replay value. Ok, this review seems pretty negative, but please don’t get me wrong: ‘This Will Be The Death Of Us’ is a great album, and it will probably end up making my end of year ‘Best Of’ list. Balancing hardcore and pop punk styles whilst never getting too cheesy, simplistic or clichéd is no easy feat and Set Your Goals have managed it admirably. They have also managed to refine their sound in to something more powerful and aggressive. It’s just hard for it to live up to something that was damn near perfect. Rating: 7/10