Let me just start this review by saying that if Dave Smalley (DYS, Dag Nasty, ALL, Down by Law) is fronting a band, I'm going to be all over it like hardcore record collectors on a copy of Chunk King Can Suck It. But that doesn't mean I won't go in with an objective ear. The stuff has to be great. After all, this is the dude who sang on Can I Say.
That leads us to the subject at hand, the debut EP from Don't Sleep. Featuring the aforementioned Smalley on vocals, the band is rounded out by bassist Garrett Rothman (Junction), drummer Jim Bedorf, and guitarists Tom McGrath (Very Americans) and Tony Bavaria (The Commercials, Very Americans).
The group started out as Smalley's backing band when he would do solo shows featuring songs from his entire discography, but the chemistry was so strong they decided to make the partnership a bit more meaningful.
Don't Sleep is a 7-song collection of classic-sounding melodic hardcore. The festivities get started off with a punchy cut called "Bring the Light" that includes a fun breakdown about halfway through. "Hypocrite" keeps things moving at a nice pace, but this time the band delivers something more anthemic in its delivery, with a catchy-as-fuck lead guitar line riding throughout it. It's nothing fancy, but it's effective as all hell.
"Arise" is another call to arms kind of track, which wouldn't sound out of place on an older Rise Against record. I can see this one going over really well in a festival setting.
"All the Way to Nowhere" finishes out the EP with a melancholic vibe. On that one, Smalley sings: "...and if you ever need me, just call" and you believe the guy.
Don't Sleep is available for US fans at the Revelation Records online store, and for our European friends, the people at Core-Tex have you covered. If you're a variants collector, Rev have a limited edition of 100 copies on yellow vinyl, exclusive to their store, and Core-Tex have 100 copies in gold. You can't lose.