Genre categorization seems to be severely skewed among the many clueless bands that weren’t even born when punk rock was doing its thing. I recently spoke with a girl who works with a Philly band who argued at length that they are, as she put it, “pop punk.”

While she is right that the category does have a legitimate background, just because a band plays glaringly loud, sloppy bar chords, wears neon sunglasses and dyes their hair blue, doesn’t put them anywhere remotely close to a hybrid moniker created by bands like The Ramones or Generation X.

Moreover, most of today’s acts are not a revolution; they are a replicated clone on a last chance power drive to something that’s already been done to death. Companies like Fender and PRS make fortunes off of lost hopefuls that fork over thousands to look like they’re this year’s Green Day. Economic and capital gain are the vultures of our dreams.

Thankfully, there are still bands out there that understand how to approach tradition and fit that old school influence into a bold mindset of risking it all one more time to succeed on their own fun-filled terms.

Lost In Society are a group that score well in that pop punk area. The band hails from the Asbury Park scene and has doggedly bucked trends and mundane comparisons in their quest to be the best. From their conception in 2004, doing mega shows at PNC (who gets that right out of the gate?) to their current career highlight of the single “Not Afraid” being produced by Pete Steinkopf of the Bouncing Souls, this is a band that steers wide of the skinny jeans clique and lyrics about how it’s not fair that their girlfriend is cuter than them. Their music is toned and honed as they slap you in the back of the head with their dark and poignant lyrical content.

With influential strains of The Offspring, Dramarama and the Foo Fighters, Zack Moyle, Nick Ruroede and Hector Bonora slash into the crowd with some convincingly soul crunching, rock and roll surgery. This is three-piece music that doesn’t hide behind layers of bullshit fuzz or keyboard droning distractions as they pound the crowd with song after clever song ranging in subject from possible firearms possession to love molested chemistry experiments.

Out in support of their new CD, Let It Sail, Lost In Society took the Asbury Lanes crowd on a wild biographical ride that included new cuts, crowd favorites and even some bizarre cover songs done in drag. I’ll talk more about that later.

Getting right into this wild night, the band came out with “Sweat,” a fast-paced rocker in the vein of early Dramarama. Heavy duty drums and bass pound a wide pathway for the vocal rasp of singer Zack Moyle, a frontman who bashes away at his Gibson SG like the damn thing was a girlfriend that he caught in bed with the pizza delivery guy. Moyle’s passionate confessional makes deals with his subject (a very bad girl) as he throws down hard into the middle of this tube powered blitzkrieg.

“Scared” hails from a twisted B-52’s meets Link Wray with a bit of Bryan Dexter Holland tossed in. Raw and gritty, this song had the crowd bouncing the laminated bowling floor like a trampoline as the band incited an impromptu mosh pit and crowd surf jamboree up front. One guy actually came over to me as I was taking notes to ask if I would “help orchestrate” the pit, to which I said, “Sorry, I know I have a shaved head, but I’m just a writer guy.” Anyhow, even though he looked at me with disappointment and dismay, he managed to enlist a sizeable crew in time for the next song.

“Not Alone” launches from a spray of distortion that eventually exploded into a very Offspring inspired verse. Zack has a raw and melodically powerful voice that sits high above the music. The bass and drums thunder of Nick Ruroede and Hector Bonora was machine gun fast and dynamically just perfect enough to make me check to make sure it wasn’t a drum and bass program. “Not Alone” is an anthem that should easily see college airplay right away.

“Coming Back” is another fast-metered rocker in the vein of Bush and the Bouncing Souls. Straight-ahead rock and roll construction complete with thick toned drum breaks and middle eight lead guitar work in the smart vein of Zack Blair (Rise Against).

“Gun” is the CD opener and it’s a prime example of rip-roaring, nine millimeter rock and roll. Drugs, alleged beatings and more unfold in this lyrical cornucopia of lust, love, addiction and anger. The band plunges deep into the heart of this rough and tumble song like a knife in a rump roast. A rock and punk lullaby in the dark vein of The Godfathers and Green Day.

“Halloween Song” is another audience favorite that had the Asbury Lanes crowd exploding like a pack of drunken termites. Crowd surfing continued as Moyle and crew fired the core of this song in up tempo brilliance like no one else could. This is a band that performs live or on CD the same way and that’s a good thing. Special kudos goes to Jon Liedersdorf (Matt Wade, Gypsy Cabdrivers, Cara Salimando) of Lakehouse Music for his great vision of “less is more.” The production on the disc matches the band, which as I’ve said earlier, is low on pretence and heavy on organic feel and drive. Liedersdorf is an industry guru who has been around as long as I can remember and his skill at guiding music is unsurpassed.

Another interesting song by Lost In Society is “I Want You Dead.” The song has a slow and trippy Lou Reed verse before blowing into the bridge and coming back into Moyle’s growling, Cobain yowl. Drums and bass hold a medium tempered backbeat as Zack strums lazy, dirty rhythms. Guitar lines are Harrison-inspired melodies that tumble straight down the rabbit hole of the infectious chorus all the way to the end. And then you’ll listen to it all over again.

I was really impressed by the physical spirit and compositional skill displayed by Lost In Society both on their disc as well as live at the Lanes. I’ve reviewed them before and they’ve continued to move in a commercially viable, yet artistically credible direction. The band disappeared for a bit and came back out in costume (Moyle and crew had spandex pants, make-up and a David Lee Roth wig on) to do a handful of the worst covers in history. I say worst because it was so tongue-in-cheek that it was just brilliant cheese.

Special “hippie friend in striped leggings guy” came out to blaze a quasi-version of Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” guitar solo before the group came out in costume for a campy version of “You Really Got Me” as well as several other cheese fest torch songs.

The end of the set was so hilarious, it had us gasping for breath and wiping tears from our eyes. It just goes to show that you can be a serious band with something to really say and still kick this shitty business right in the proverbial teeth.

Catch Lost In Society wherever they are and pick up their new CD, Let It Sail, as it’s one of my top picks for 2012. For more on one of Jersey’s A-list hustlers, head over to lostinsociety.com.

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