If the coming months in punk music are going to continue to be so stacked there’s not really going to be any room for me to pontificate on the state of affairs in the punk world. Suffice to say, that’s not entirely a bad thing. With that said, the last couple of months have been so chocked full of goodness and excellence that this time out we actually have to split this column in two just to get everything in. So enjoy part 1 of our review of what’s what in punk releases as we enter May and stand on the cusp of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway).
Potty Mouth – SNAFU
Potty Mouth have released their sophomore effort, actually back in March but we are reaching back in the time machine a little to cover this infectious slice of power pop. From the opening strains of lead track “Do It Again” we’re treated to charming harmony vocals and saccharine sweet buzzsaw guitar hooks backed up by a tight rhythm section in a seriously professional package of tunes.
The album includes a slightly snarky rebuttal to Taylor Swift’s “22” with the same titled second track here brimming with effervescent energy and delivery. The band covers all kinds of territory here in equally solid measure from dream pop (“Starry Eyes”) to fuzzed out, stripped down rock (“Liar”) to a Weezer or Pixies inflected stomp (“Massachusetts”). Potty Mouth show just enough versatility to keep you on your toes while being catchy enough to keep you coming back.
Some easy analogues here include the Muffs, Veruca Salt, the Coathangers, Charly Bliss, and Ex Hex. So get on with it already and pick up this album.
Clowns – Nature/Nurture
These Aussies are anything but clowns as they prove within seconds of listening to their latest album, Nature/Nurture. The opening riff of “Bland is the New Black” comes charging out of the gates. The tempo and ferocity only ease with a psychedelic interlude going into the second track, “Soul for Sale”, that’s main riff teases at Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” in places. “Nature” harnesses the fury of prime Black Flag and runs it through a trippy take on hyperactive Hellacopters-style rock. “1:19” is a complete fuzzy, keyboard driven freakout that is just delightful in its brief mayhem. If you’re craving an intense, ball of energy for your next punk album you need this.
The band’s attitude, cohesion, and utter intense, madness is a good indicator of why they’re making a steady assault on the punk rock hierarchy garnering well earned appearances at Grozerock, SXSW, and Riot Fest so far. It’s very tempting to compare this band to fellow Aussies, Frenzal Rhomb, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. They harness some of the energy of bands like the Hives and Turbonegro along with punk stalwarts Dead to Me and Direct Hit! all in the mix.
PUP – Morbid Stuff
We’ve discussed PUP (short for “Pathetic Use of Potential”) in this space before and we aren’t the only ones talking about their latest album, Morbid Stuff, but we can’t ignore this charming slab of wax. Somehow the band continue to create a wonderful blend of, if you will, a dorky brother version of the kind of angst that bands like the Menzingers and Iron Chic bring to their music. But really, any comparisons pale when in the face of this band’s particular brand of noise.
Their loose sort of garage, jangle, power pop is evident on the title track, “Free at Last”, and “Scorpion Hill” even as the latter slows things down to a borderline dirge at the beginning before switching up into their more standard gear. The outright assault on all of the things one is told to do in pursuit of positive mental well-being is a thread running throughout the album but particularly potent on later cuts such as “Bloody Mary, Kate and Ashley”, the out-of-character “Full Blown Meltdown”, and “City”, the album’s sometimes slinky yet cathartic closer.
As the subject matter goes, we have an album filled with musings on depression as pointed out on “Free at Last”, “just because you’re sad again it doesn’t make you special”, which feels a lot like the glib sentiment behind the entire proceedings here. As a fellow struggler with mental health issues, I can certainly appreciate Stefan Babcock’s sardonic approach to the difficulties of day to day life with these kinds of things. It’s especially potent and, if you’re willing to laugh at “the morbid stuff”, downright enjoyable on “See You at Your Funeral”.
Otoboke Beaver – Itekoma Hits
Otoboke Beaver have been riding a bit of wave gaining increasing exposure for their fast paced, fuzzed out, garage punk that, while having their own distinctive touches, follows in the fine tradition of bands like Shonen Knife, Guitar Wolf, and even Melt Banana, at times. Lead track “datsu . hikage no onna” has moments that almost sound like an Arctic Monkeys jam on speed. “S’il vous plait” keeps this conceit running in some ways but it’s still an all out MC5 kind of rocker.
At an all-too-brief but seemingly completely necessary 26 minutes of runtime this band gets in, accomplishes their mission to rock faces off and then get out before you even know what hit you. That, my friends is a great thing, which leaves you wondering what you missed the first, second, seventh, and tenth time through the record. For example, the melodies in the vocals halfway through “Bakuro book” and a clever build shortly thereafter are really nice touches that lend depth to their style, taking a slightly different angle than the rest of the album to this point. If there’s a “fist pumping rocker” of a track on this album, an argument could be made for “Love is Short” while it’s successor, “Bad luck”, has some bass funk that wouldn’t be out of place on early Faith No More before we digress into an out-of-tune, monkeygrinder kind of guitar riff before coalescing into a vocal harmonized over some lead guitar. It’s a funhouse mirror of a track.
As you make your way through and back to this album the recurring theme of rejecting patriarchal society is eye bleedingly self-evident but not so overblown that it ever seems tedious. The venting on tracks like “Introduce me to your family”, “6 day working week is a pain”, and “I’m tired of your repeating story” are only finely tuned examples of the sentiment rampant through this album. Overall, this album is as “hardcore” as anything else out there, albeit, in its own way.
Martha – Love Keeps Kicking
As a band delivering on some nicely delivered jangly power pop, rarely leaning into much distortion while relying heavily on vocal melodies and backed up by a more than capable rhythm section, Martha out of England, provide an album filled with songs about friendship, love, and the way it gets a bit entwined because humans are, well, human. “Heart is Healing” and “Sight for Sore Eyes” provide a great one-two punch to start this thing off and it really doesn’t let up from there.
The band draws on a number of influences to create their sound but the main power is in the enticing vocals that carries things. Being in the higher range it’s hard not to hear a little Alex Chilton in there and with the way the guitars carry on it brings up long gone acts like Discount, Cub, and still-around acts like Lemuria. I’m sure there are more contemporaneous influences that the band would point to themselves but overall, we’re talking about a largely clean, glistening, driving power pop sound that’ll get you going. To wit, the title track is about as catchy as anything the Rembrandts ever produced and with twice the indie cred.
One impression that I could never quite shake on listening to the band was that of them being sort of like a “happier” version of early Frightened Rabbit. By my estimation, not a bad thing. “Brutalism by the River (arrhytmia)” is a short but sweet banger of a tune here as well with some surprising “whoa oh”s riding the outro quite nicely. “The Void” has some great vocals, again, and rides a vein of ‘80s mixed with a guitar line that seems straight out of the catalog of Franz Ferdinand or similar. Really, all comparisons aside, this is a fun ride with fantastic melodies and just enough “oomph” to keep things moving in a really addictive way.
Wimbledon Alley – This Isn’t a Tennis Match (Rematch)
There’s a healthy cross between A Day to Remember and Strung Out on this hyper speed release out of the wilds of Minnesota. At times the vocals are reminiscent of New Found Glory lots of those good, old fashioned shout along choruses that made this stuff so popular not that long ago. The lyrics might be a little sophomoric at times but, here’s the deal, it’s honest and what’s more, oh RIGHT! We got this far into the review and I forgot to tell you: this is a solo project (with a couple of guest vocal spots).
Keep that in mind when you click on that link. This is some seriously impressive shit for a “one man band” and really does deserve some real attention. The thing about this genre of material is that it ain’t rocket science but it takes some skill to execute but also to make it stand out from the many contenders and this dude manages just that. It’s catchy and catches you just fast enough that you’ll find yourself listening to stuff on repeat.
Clocking in at a brisk 22 minutes the best of the highlights on this album, and honestly just listen to all of it, are the title track, “Life Ain’t Ez”, and “With My Friends”. It highlights how universal one can make the lyrics in this particular sub-genre that allows people to connect to it in a way that proves flat out enjoyable. You’ve definitely wasted 22 minutes on things worth WAY LESS of your time so give this a spin.
Bars of Gold – Shelters
When Bars of Gold first crossed my radar as half of Bear vs. Shark, I was instantly intrigued. That intrigue only grew when I heard the tracks that kick off Shelters, “Worthless Chorus” and “Atlantic City”. The former starts off harkening back to all of your favorite ‘70s rock, partly paying homage to Michigan’s deep roots in that style, and the latter is this shambling kind of thing that conjures up images of older rockers trying to retain their relevance. It’s this expertise of conjuring a feeling that makes this band an intriguing entry in today’s punk rock pastiche.
And the first question I had to ask myself when I heard Marc Paffi was involved here was “how’s he going to sound now?” Well, not terribly different than his BvS days, however, there’s a certain level of additional nuance that has his delivery again hovering between spoken word and the yelp of Mike Watt infused with the tones of Lee Ving. “$20” provides a lot of funk accents, some horns here and there, and some really interesting keyboard work that makes this possibly one of the most experimental tracks on the record… out of a set of material that seems intent on keeping you on your toes. The late trio of songs, “Montana”, “Plywood to Pine”, and “G” are great examples of exactly that.
If anything, Shelters seems set up as individual songs as sonic “paintings”, each retaining its individual character and no one entirely like the other. It’s that kind of exploration that makes this a worthwhile addition to your rotation. In fact, for the adventurous, you’d be hard pressed to find a clunker in the bunch. If you liked BvS, Appleseed Cast, Small Brown Bike but you just wanted something more, I don’t know, funky? Experimental? Danceable? Gold Bars are here to help you.
Witching Waves – Persistence
Witching Waves present a, well, persistent sound of garage rock punctuated with buzzsaw guitars, propulsive drums, and tuneful yet shouty vocals that hit the ground running on their latest offering. The band embody the spirit of so many foundational bands of the early punk movement like the Vaselines, X-Ray Spex (sans saxophone), and even some Subhumans while also managing to update their take on this style. It also raises kind comparisons to Slant 6 and Bratmobile that, while channeling a bit of these bands, Witching Waves manage to give us something new and potent to add to this canon.
The opening salvo of “Disintegration”, “Best of Me”, and “Eye 2 Eye” provide a really quick intro to what this band is all about and immediately hooks listeners. “Shipping Container” adds a few, new and subtle elements mainly on the guitars here and, though it doesn’t particularly change the pacing of the record, it certainly changes the sonic attack by toying ever so slightly with something psychedelic. Guitarist, Mark Jasper, steps to the mic on “Melt It Down” giving us yet another slight tweak and new dimension to the band.
As with any album that sports sparse arrangements and an overall brief run time, Persistence pays off in many ways that become increasingly apparent with more listens. One track that doesn’t require multiple listens to instantly charm their audience is “Underachiever” which sees the band at their most out-of-tune-yet-melodic in the latter stages of the album. If you like your music raw then Witching Waves new one is definitely for you.
Punk Rock Jukebox – Singles and EPs
Bouncing Souls – Crucial Moments EP
What’s really great about this is that the band kind of sum up 30 (JFC!!!!) years of doing their punk rock thing over the course of an abbreviated six-song EP. Each song sort of peeks in on the different stages these guys have gone through and each stand up extremely well on their own. It’s somewhat fitting that they’d release an unassuming piece like this to celebrate their longevity. Must hear track: Crucial Moments
Project Revise – “Time Will Carry You”
Touches of hardcore and a heavy dose of Face to Face style pop punk, particularly in the vocal delivery. Definitely flies the flag of classic Fat Wreck style bands.
Acres – “Talking in Your Sleep”
Gorgeous, dense, lush, cinematic post-hardcore by these Brits. I can’t wait to see what they come up with on their August 9th full-length release Lonely World.
Overgrow – “Bad Heart”
Honest, earnest Midwestern melodies that stretch the boundary of what you might call punk as this is definitely more along the lines of emo pop just done really, really fucking well.
SICK MINDS – “Liar”
Says here their influences include Comeback Kid, Casey Jones, and Modern Life is War. Story checks out. I’d throw in some of the obvious here such as Sick of it All and Agnostic Front but you get the idea.
Fleche – “Not a Single Thing”
Something like a mashup of Minus the Bear, early 2000s college rock, and the stompier bits of Foo Fighters and you get a nice little stew on this teaser for this French group’s upcoming album.
Decent Criminal – “Creep”
More of that garage-y, boozy smoke filled bar/basement punk that I am an admitted sucker for. Holds up well with Iron Chic, PEARS, and Off With Their Heads.
State Faults – “Moon Sign Gemini”
Fifty-four seconds of utter chaos. There’s really no other way to describe this and I love it.
Just Say Nay – “Artistic Spectrum”
This London based outfit do exactly what the title says here waging a bit of sonic warfare across the spectrum of punk, particularly the ska-punk variety, which includes some really awesome vocal takes.
Woes – “Suburbs”
Somewhere in the spaces between late-period Saves the Day, Senses Fail, and Motion City Soundtrack lies Woes. This track is a brilliant slice of this kind of emo punk and will fit into your summer soundtrack quite nicely.
Big Nothing – “Real Name”/”Honey”
This is an absolutely addicting slice of power pop in the vein of Superchunk and their ilk.
Spanish Love Songs – “Losers”/”(No) Reason to Believe”
Do you love every little thing about the Menzingers? Then you will similarly adore Spanish Love Songs and particularly these tracks. I fucking adore these tracks, so give them a spin, won’t you?
Weigh the Anchor – Different Ways EP
This is an energetic band out of Canada who do a nice combo of Senses Fail and All-American Rejects type emo.
WVNDER – “Stranger”
Another dreamy, emo-tinged new single from their upcoming album Nothing Stays (out on May 17th).
Basement – “Be Here Now”/”Are You the One”
This single and accompanying b-side will 100% have you singing along within your first play. It truly is that catchy. It’s the same kind of driving pop-punk that Jawbreaker popularized a couple of decades ago and that Jimmy Eat World eventually perfected.
Nothing Serious – “Gravedigger”
Take a dose of Gameface and a splash of Masked Intruder and you get Ontario’s Nothing Serious. Very solid, straight forward pop-punk.
Prince Daddy and the Hyena – “Lauren (Track 2)”
A single from their upcoming full-length, Cosmic Thrill Seekers due out on June 28, this is a fun, screechy, garage kind of punk that embodies a lot of what makes the genre unique, twisting something usable out of seeming spare parts. As the video asserts, the band are a sparsely attended house party in musical form and ain’t nothing wrong with that.