Pop punk is a genre that has in many ways stagnated, if you’re a pessimist, or coalesced and solidified into its more permanent sound, if you’re an optimist. That hasn’t stopped new bands from forming and taking their own stab at that sound as it can vary just enough to appeal to a variety of musicians and fans of very, very different things. One end of pop punk might favor the hyperspeed riffing and snotty vocals of NOFX and their lineage, while another side might gravitate towards the mid-tempo guitars and syrupy sweet vocal styling that was more in line with Green Day and the back catalog of bands who found a home on the now defunct Lookout! Records during their ‘90s heyday.
The litany of bands who took one of those two major schools of pop punk and applied their own spin are too many to mention but that bands of their ilk continue to spill out of garages and rented halls across the world shows that, more than 20 years on, there’s enough love for catchy, punked up tunes to keep fresh offerings on the plates of fans of the style. The Driers, out of Tel Aviv, are just such a band giving their portrayal of the latter form on their new release, Sad Party, chock full of sweet vocals and catchy melodies. One thing that the band, and particularly guitarist (and vocalist), Ronnie Markevich, does quite well throughout the album is inject it with shots of the kind of angular guitar lines that are more reminiscent of J. Robbins and his bands, Jawbox and Burning Airlines, which winds up bolstering the band’s sound with something just that little bit atypical. There’s even a hint of Spoon on album closer “Bad Voice” with drummer, Ben Tversky, and bassist, Tomer Sapir, showing off a nice pocket groove (which they also do quite well on earlier track, “The Slides”).
But there’s a lot that happens before the end of the album. The punky surf elements of “Delayed” kicks the album off in style but it’s the catchy bounce of the title track, “Sad Party”, that really sees the band settle into their groove. Without actually knowing the band or having talked to them ahead of this piece, I feel pretty confident that this record, and their sound overall, is an amalgamation of record collections that I imagine holds some Weezer, perhaps Goldfinger, and maybe some stuff from the Vagrant back catalog. The vocals and big, crashing chorus on “Squeeze” remind me a lot, A LOT, of The Anniversary, in fact, or a punked up Beirut that see this band shuffling between indie rock and pop punk in a pretty refreshing way. This seems to be the sweet spot for this band, as well, which is good for a genre that, as said at the beginning, relies on the little inflections to continually replenish the well from which more of these bands grow.
“Heartworms” sees them add a little more caffeination to their sound in a delightful, sugar-rush of a tune replete with hand-claps and a riff not entirely unreminiscent of Billy Joe Armstrong’s late-period guitar playing or The Oranges Band. Pulling together influences like these, and the others mentioned, all over this album make it good for repeated listening. It’s one of those rare indie-punk albums that truly does reward one for returning to it while being light enough to throw on for any occasion where lightening the mood would be useful, and I can’t think of anyone I know who couldn’t use a little more of that in the world today. All in all, this is a really nice second album from a promising band who should continue to grow over the course of subsequent albums and (hopefully) tours. So that means you, promoters and bookers, bring the Driers to your town for a good time and for fans of good music, add this to your collection.