New Found Glory announced the departure of founding member and rhythm guitarist / lyricist Steve Klein late Wednesday night—a sudden and totally unexpected move. The pop-punk act released seven studio LPs with Klein and this is the first lineup change for the Coral Springs, FL-based group since 1997.
Klein has always been in the band's shadows: Live in concert, frontman Jordan Pundik is the bouncing focal point; hulking guitarist Chad Gilbert busts out signature punk stage moves; drummer Cyrus Balooki flails behind the kit and bassist Ian Grushka has insane antics with his oft-shirtless belly hanging out. Klein is the least showy, strumming to the side.
But as many NFG know, he's the band's secret weapon. He's been the primary songwriter, helping the group reach a level of fame in the early 2000s with memorable singles like "Hit Or Miss," "My Friends Over You" and "It's Not Your Fault." He was the mastermind behind many lyrics that might've been your AOL Instant Messenger "away status" in middle and high school.
Sadly, Klein's departure doesn't appear to be agreeable. "We've had our differences with Steve over the years that have led us to this decision," read the band's Facebook announcement. "We love Steve, however personal differences have guided this decision and we no longer feel we can work with him."
For a group that considered themselves as brothers before bandmates, the news comes as a shock for longtime fans. Don't expect answers anytime soon; Fuse's requests for an interview with NFG have been denied.
As an era ends and NFG continue without Klein on their next LP, let's reflect on the band's best work with the lyricist, guitarist and songwriter. Fuse has compiled notable tracks from the band's 15-year career with Klein, complete with commentary, to honor the end of an era for NFG fans.
Diehard New Found Glory fans hold a special place in their hearts for the band's debut LP, 1999's Nothing Gold Can Stay. While blink-182 was already a dominant force by this time, releasing the heralded Enema of the State in the same year, Nothing Gold Can Stay offered pop-punk fans a less polished, more raw album to channel their angst.
The album's lead track, "It Never Snows In Florida," is a fan favorite amongst old-school NFG listeners. The group almost never plays it live, but when they do it's usually in their home state. As someone who grew up in South Florida, not far from where the band got their start, take my word: It's a special experience to yell along to this song in a crowded venue. For proof, check the above video from a secret show in 2009 in Pompano Beach.
Lyrical highlight » "Distance means nothing to me / It only makes me want to see you longer"
The song that launched New Found Glory into the pop-punk elite, "Hit Or Miss" is a long-time crowd-pleaser at live concerts. NFG's self-titled LP holds its own in pop-punk lore, breaking the 500,000 sales mark to become the first of three gold records for New Found Glory.
Above, check out a red-haired Ian Grushka in the very blink-182-esque music video, an homage to the group's early years.
Lyrical highlight » "Remember the time we wrote our names upon the wall? / Remember the time we realized 'Thriller' was our favorite song?"
The second and last single to be released from New Found Glory features an iconic guitar lick. One of the more popular tracks on the album, "Dressed To Kill" very accurately foreshadows the formula that would bring New Found Glory to prominence – a crunchy, "easycore" rhythm guitar, pounding drums and bass, and a lead guitar line that gets stuck in your head as easily as the vocal melody.
Lyrical highlight » "I'm always dressed to kill / And I feel like I owe it to the world / But I owe it to myself"
Everything about "My Friends Over You" is indicative of the genre as a whole. From the often-imitated intro line to the explosive chorus, it's hard to pick another song that better embodies the early 2000s pop-punk movement. Klein wrote about best friends and girls a lot, but "My Friends Over You" is ultimately the high point of those now-cliché topics. Sticks and Stones is the penultimate NFG record for many fans, and certainly the point where the band reached their peak of commercial appeal.
Lyrical highlight » "Though you swear that you are true / I still pick my friends over you"
It's understandable that "Head On Collision" and "Understatement" were the second and third singles from Sticks and Stones, but it makes no sense that MCA / Drive-Thru didn't release "Something I Call Personality" as a fourth single. Chad Gilbert's cry of "Let's go!" at the beginning is perhaps the best two-word representation of 2003 pop-punk.
Lyrical highlight » "Before you jump to conclusions / About all the friends I have / Just remember they were born that way"
Sticks and Stones' closing track features one of the band's most memorable melodies. But, oddly enough, original copies of the record offers roughly 20 minutes of silence before an end-of-album prank/skit with someone creepily saying, "There's someone in your house!" I was greatly deterred from playing this track on my Walkman before bed because of this.
Lyrical highlight » "The sky will never look the same again / 'Till you show me how it could be"
This is the circle pit song. Every band needs one. There's no more adored song off Catalyst, which is an awesome album (it's the band's third consecutive gold record and resulted in their personal best debut week at No. 3 on the Billboard 200).
Lyrical highlight(s) » "There was a time and place where I never thought I'd leave my own hometown / But those days finally are dead and gone."
It was tough to pick this track over fellow Catalyst standouts "All Downhill From Here" and "Failure's Not Flattering," but this track trumps both of those singles. The band show off its hardcore influences with a crunchy guitar breakdown.
Lyrical highlight » "I'm the one to blame for this / Cause I'm best known for failure / Best known for giving up / There's nothing that I can say that can matter enough"
Coming Home was a polarizing album, as the band strayed from their classic sound and divided their fan base. Some swear by Coming Home, while others ignore it in NFG's discography. Either way, it caused a major shift in the group's career.
This is the first NFG album recorded without legendary producer Neal Avron. Instead, the band elected to record with Thom Panunzio, resulting in their first concept album. It explores themes of missing home and loved ones, and features more "mature" songwriting, which critics hailed in positive reviews.
Klein's lyrics were more serious, the music more thoughtful, and "Hold My Hand" is perhaps the LP highpoint thanks to its welcoming opening melody.
Lyrical standout » "Hold my hand / I'll take you everywhere, anywhere, you wanna go"
No Coming Home track better illustrated the sonic shift from their earlier sound than "Boulders." It's one of the group's slowest songs, highlighted by piano and acoustic guitar, and Pundik's vocals lack their usual strain and intensity.
Lyrical highlight » "I feel locked away with the weight of the world on my shoulders / Crushing on my head are boulders made of lies and dust from all of us."
Fans who wanted a return to form didn't have to wait long. NFG left Geffen for indie giant Epitaph Records and released the Mark Hoppus-produced Not Without A Fight in 2009. Lead single "Listen To Your Friends" is the very definition of a return form.
Gang vocals, an instant-classic guitar riff, a fun music video and the launch of the "Pop Punk's Not Dead" marketing campaign made "Listen To Your Friends" a massive single. After Coming Home, the band took their longest break between studio albums, and this song was an obvious statement that they were nowhere near finished.
While NFG didn't experience the same sales numbers as in the mid-2000s (pop-punk's mainstream moment was dwindling), the marriage between the band and Epitaph was a successful one. This was a statement album if nothing else.
Lyrical standout » "I should have listened to my friends / I don't ever wanna see you again / I should have listened to them."
Back in their comfort zone, New Found Glory churned out 2011's Radiosurgery with a focus on earlier pop-punk influences. They covered Green Day's "Basket Case" on tour and turned to even earlier favorites, like the Ramones, for inspiration. The album isn't NFG's crowning achievement, but it shows a veteran band pumping out another quality release to be proud of.
Lyrical standout » "Don't waste my time, you're never gonna change my mind / When you need a boy around you just for the summer, don't come knocking on my door."