The long-awaited debut album from the female pop-punk band, Meet Me @ The Altar, is finally here. With three EPs to their name, the earliest, dating back to 2018 (Changing States), putting together a project isn’t anything new for lead singer, Edith Victoria, guitarist/bassist, Téa Campbell, and drummer Ada Juarez. However, paired with the high praises of Hayley Williams from Paramore, Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years, several appearances at respected rock festivals, and a hit single blaring over a Taco Bell commercial, things might feel a little different.
Aptly titled, Past // Present // Future, the album pays homage to all things pop-punk from all three. They acknowledge the acts that reigned the airwaves throughout the early 2000s, push the boundaries of the genre today, and are the new faces of the future. What isn’t lost on the band is the importance of seeing Black and Brown women, some of which who identify as LGBTQ+, occupy spaces that have historically been dominated by white, cis males. Listening to their music, however, one wouldn’t conclude anything other than these young and talented women clearly know the genre in which they occupy.
Signing with the legendary emo record label, Fueled by Ramen, in 2020, the band join a roster of chart-topping acts such as Paramore, Fall Out Boy, and Twenty One Pilots. Not an overnight success by a stretch, Ada and Téa formed the band in 2015 and Edith joined the couplet in 2017. The band has an impressive discography of inspirational anthems, defiant lyrics, and catchy riffs that define a generation of women and girls who tire of hearing the whiny howls, and at times, misogynist lyrics of white dudes that have spearheaded the genre since its formation. Meet Me @ The Altar are a fresh take on what it means to persevere and push boundaries in a scene that has attempted to shut women and other minorities out despite its roots being in inclusivity and rebellion.
Past // Present // Future is punk in attitude and pop with memorable choruses and boppy drums. Listeners will also be pleasantly surprised to hear influences from garage rock and even some sweet guitar solos throughout the project. While the tracklist only contains 11 songs and runs just over 30 minutes, they do a phenomenal job of touching both punk and pop without favoring one over the other. There are tracks for the avid punk rocker, “Say It (To My Face),” “Kool,” and “It’s Over For Me.” While pop fans will likely enjoy “T.M.I.,” “A Few Tomorrows,” and “Thx 4 Nothin’.” It’s a true pop-punk album with influences from Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, FeFe Dobson, and several Radio Disney pop and rock favorites from the early 2000s like the Jonas Brothers and Kelly Clarkston.
The band is unabashedly candid about the role Disney films and soundtracks play in their music. To capture that feel and sound, they enlisted the help of producer, John Fields, who’s worked with notable Disney acts such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Hillary Duff. Still, the album isn’t a shrine to that time. Instead, it’s reminiscent of an era rather than living, or sulking, in it.
One of the standout aspects of the album is easily Edith Victoria’s vocals. Unlike the pop-punk acts of yesteryear, Victoria’s vocals are extremely versatile. In “A Few Tomorrows,” she sings in a soft tone with hints of soul, hitting gentle runs and high registers effortlessly. She never truly abandons the edgy rock aesthetic as can be heard when she sings, “Love never breaks, it only bends.” The song is the only ballad on the album and a sweet break from rushing guitars and pulsating drums. Even in the hard-hitting and more sonically aggressive tunes like “Say It” (To My Face)” and “It’s Over For Me,” Victoria’s vocal ability will certainly aid in the trio’s success as they continue to push boundaries and experiment with their sound.
Fortunately, she’ll have great support from Ada and Téa who are incredibly talented musicians. The two are airtight with their instruments and play more on the technical side of the punk genre than what listeners might be used to. Téa shreds on the guitar like she was born to do so. She and Victoria serve as the songwriters of the group though for this project, they teamed up with One Direction songwriter, John Ryan. Together, they create tracks that are relatable, motivational, empowering, and positive. But there’s also the acknowledgment that it’s okay to not be okay.
Standout track, “T.M.I.” is a deeply personal and honest account of self-doubt and low self-esteem paired with the desire to confide in someone but not wanting to overwhelm them. Over the snare-forward chorus, Victoria pelts, “I hate myself/I/Look in the mirror and start to cry.” Adding in thought-provoking lines like, “If you knew me better, you’d like me worse/T.M.I.” The Avril-influenced, head-bopping, “Try” is a song about resilience with a fun tom-thumping breakdown. “Rocket Science” rounds out the inspirational tunes with an unforgiving chant of “Everything is possible!” over a poppy Radio Disney-inspired beat.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a pop-punk album without breakup anthems. “Need Me” opens with a slowed version of Blink-182’s, “What’s My Age Again” opening guitar riff before veering into a more thoughtful rendition of a breakup. “You tell me you love me but say we’re through/We make up, we break up, it’s what we do,” Victoria sings before claiming, “I don’t give a fuck/Give a fuck” (the only curse words spoken on the entire album). “It’s Over For Me,” immediately follows with hard-pounding drums and gruff guitar chords that perfectly convey the message of a firm finality. It’s definitely a track that will get a pit going at a show.
The songs are mature and clever. Combining punk lyrics with tasteful humor is a fine balance that the band pulls off quite well. In the in-your-face opener, “Say It (To My Face),” the band hits back at online trolls who talk tough behind a screen but don’t have the nerve to say it to their faces. “You’re so irrelevant, almost didn’t commit/Almost didn’t write you a second verse,” Victoria mocks in a cool and unbothered rhythmic tone. “Same Language,” a song about ending a relationship with a guy who doesn’t seem interested in his partner, includes lyrics like, “Hello in there Mr. I don’t care/I’ve had better conversations with my wall and my dog.” Before the threatening, “You think, you think we’re good and that’s dangerous.”
The lyrics are unforgiving and punk. In “Kool,” Victoria swoons over a face-tattooed mystery person over a grungey guitar riff. Easily taking listeners back to a time when telling their friends about their crush and being so overwhelmed that the words are hard to find. “You’re so kool,” Victoria groans before prolonging a sort of wail-like note. We’ve all been there.
The album only seems to lose momentum towards the end, most notably with its last song, “King of Everything.” Though it’s paying homage to the Disney film, Freaky Friday, and its hit song, “Take Me Away,” it falls flat as a final track. While not a bad song, it’s lackluster in its conclusion and after such a powerful opener and strong project, the track is sort of forgettable.
Overall, Past // Present // Future is a solid debut album. The band is able to combine their influences and still create an aesthetic and sound of their own. Potential listeners shouldn’t let the Radio Disney influence deter them from giving this album a spin. It’s a surprisingly mature project with nods to the pop-punk of the past and an exciting glimpse of the future. Adults will find songs to rock out to and enjoy just as much as pre-teens and teenagers. Additionally, many of the songs would be great as acoustic versions as the band did with their easycore EP, Model Citizen. Particularly due to Victoria’s strengths as a singer and Téa’s musicianship and backup vocals. In all, Meet Me @ The Altar is unapologetically here to stay and it’s going to be exciting to witness this band’s promising trajectory.