What’s Up Punks, July 2019

This month, we’re all over the map. Happy, sad, emo, serious, political, and not so, it’s all in here this time around. We’re especially stoked on the albums that came out over the last month and there were more that should have made it in but we had to stop somewhere or we’d be listing albums until Christmas. Needless to say, this list scratches the surface of recent releases and is as much intended to whet the appetite as it is to provide a look at as much great music as we could possibly fit in this space. Enjoy!

Prince Daddy and the HyenaCosmic Thrill Seekers (June 28)

Screamy, snotty, and altogether catchy could easily define the latest offering from Prince Daddy and the Hyena. There’s something loveable about this band that is reminiscent of Ween with slightly more conventional ideas. Take that and throw it in a blender with some wonderfully loose percussion, fuzzy and feedback laden guitars, along with the caterwauling vocals and there’s just something magical here. 

“Lauren (Track 2)” is an alt-punk drink along kind of tune that will stick to your cerebellum like glue if you give it half the chance, especially the guitar riffs. It feels like a house party teetering on the verge of collapse and that’s a great thing. “Fuckin’ A” and “Dialogue” keep bringing the party to the point that you really have no choice other than to ride the wave. The band does allow for teetering moments in which you get the opportunity to catch your breath before taking off again but it’s relatively few and far between the solid, sonic crash and bang of this alternative rock rager with all the punk attitude you could ever want.

That same loose party vibe permeates everything here and makes for a fun ride whether it’s the tamer takes on alt-rock like “Slip” or “Breather” or the more in-line “C’mon & Smoke Me Up”. “Trying Times” is a dissonant and belligerent take on Weezer that improves on that band’s formula by leaps and bounds. It’s that underlying belligerence that grabs some of your attention but it’s the melodies and likeability of the whole thing that will keep you spinning Cosmic Thrill Seekers through this summer and beyond.

Titus AndronicusAn Obelisk

On the heels of a band that likes to reference Titus Andronicus’ 2010 album, The Monitor, in interviews, we actually have the newest record by that band to discuss. Patrick Stickles channels Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers) throughout An Obelisk none more prevalently or thorough than on album opener, “Just Like Ringing a Bell”. But that’s just the introduction via one facet of this band to this album that many will treat as a return to form in one way and a new evolution in others. 

All of the well-known elements of the TA sound are present here down to the bar rock, Jersey style that many bands have taken out for a punk spin ever since Springsteen emerged from the Garden State so many decades ago. Witness “Troubleman Unlimited” replete with cowbell and arena-ready outro. Of course, that it gives way to the raucous “(I Blame) Society” shows that the band are both energetic and dead serious in their delivery of this new, snotty punk-inflected rock. That one can hear, throughout the album, the ghosts of classic American rock n’ roll mashed up with the spirit of ‘77 and the earliest British wave of punk rock provides a potent recipe sorely needed in modern punk especially when it’s done this well. 

The simplicity of this roots-based approach forgives any warts that appear on An Obelisk. Some of the most intriguing music on the album flies by in a flash, particularly on the tracks “Beneath the Boot” and “On the Street” which could easily have appeared on a Fear or Sham 69 album. That the band, at this point in their career, can successfully channel acts ranging from Neil Young to Thin Lizzy with an update all their own that forces its relevance to a new audience is something to be admired. They remain a moving target but for now, the groove they’ve found is extremely engaging.

Mannequin PussyPatience 

In trying to wrangle the right words to describe the third album from Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy you’re likely to find yourself in a losing battle. So, be that as it may, I am going to attempt this fool’s errand for a rich and diverse album that combines a magnificent production (hats off to Will Yip for this one) with styles that run the gamut from fuzzy garage rock to glistening, late ‘90s indie, right down to hard driving, bare bones punk rock. 

All that said, part of the power of this band comes from the lyrical narrative of singer-guitarist, Marissa Dabice, who recounts all nature of relationships from the unflinching eye that refuses to romanticize the abuse that too many are acquainted with. Perhaps the most potent example appears on “Fear/+/Desire” but it is a theme that weaves tightly throughout the fabric of Patience. “High Horse” is another song that feels like a plea that has a subtle yet inevitable build to boiling over frustration. There are multiple hallmarks of a great album throughout, though, that include highlights like the beautiful “Who You Are” and the hardcore send-up “Clams”. 

Patience hardly requires any for the listener to be rewarded. Taken alone as a piece of punk rock art, the album clearly stands on its own merits. Given the urgency and importance of the voice that it raises in its subject matter along with the musical exploration here, this might just be one of the most necessary pieces of punk rock “art” to come along this year. Or possibly in recent memory. 

Billy LiarSome Legacy

Were you looking for something to fit into your collection between Frank Turner and Dave Hause records? Maybe something reminiscent of Billy Bragg but still firmly in the “starving artist” category? How about an album chock full of driving tunes that don’t feel like sold out love songs about a Jersey shoreline that you’ll never know? Red Scare decided to release this debut from Scottish songwriter, Billy Liar, and takes all of the above, rolls it into a ball, spits in its eye, and attempts to create his own legacy.

Though mostly known for solo acoustic performances, on Some Legacy, Liar gets the full band treatment and it creates the requisite filled out sound that will have you learning the words in no time for his inevitable appearance in your local excuse of a punk bar. On “The Righteous and the Rats” lines like “do you know any protest songs? The kind that we can sing along” serves as both a mission statement and an ironic poke at his contemporaries. “Pills” might be the song that benefits the most from that full band treatment with driving drums and big singalong vocals along for the ride. “Neither Are You” is the firm finger in the chest of that person who would level criticism at Liar or his charges that serves its defiant purpose. That said, each of these songs is entirely indicative of the album as a whole.

The album reaches its political high-point on “Independent People” as one of the few solo songs, unadorned with anything beyond a vocal and guitar. It might just be the most authentic look into Liar’s previous work. However, this album has a lot of replay value in that it flashes by in a hair over 25 minutes leaving fans of the angry, punk troubadour wanting more. If he’s able to emulate any of the maniacal work ethic and eventual success that Turner has embodied over the last decade or so we might just have something substantial on our hands. At the very least, we have an entertaining and memorable debut that will leave many wanting more. 

SunsleeperYou Can Miss Something & Not Want It Back

Change in life is something that is inevitable. Sometimes it’s harder than we want it to be. It can be unwelcome, sudden, and jarring but an important part of life is how we cope with it. That coping also changes people, typically, and it’s those changes, all of the coping mechanisms and reconciliations that lie at the forefront of the latest album from Sunsleeper, You Can Miss Something & Not Want It Back.

As this is the debut album from the band it’s mostly assured that future releases will see more changes and, most likely, some evolutions in the band’s sound. For now, though, we get a shining example of throwback emo to the era of bands such as Rainer Maria, Dashboard Confessional, Promise Ring, and the Get Up Kids. One of the most remarkable elements of the album is the consistency with which the band knocks out melancholy melodic notes to a former self that hasn’t yet been left behind. “I Hope You’re Okay” and “You Can’t Please Everyone” are particularly potent examples of this. Both “No Cure” and “Better Now” have moments of fire that hint at possible next directions the band can take with their sound. All told, though, the blueprint the band have laid out here is promising as they weave together their own ideas in creating something for this new wave of emo. 

Functioning as the first full-length from the band, You Can Miss Something…, is exemplary. The lyrics are powerful, the playing complementary without being over-indulgent, and the hooks are immediate, memorable, and plentiful. Sunsleeper also excel at giving their audience just enough of this good thing without wearing out their welcome. In the current landscape littered with throwback emo acts, this Utah-based outfit may have just jumped ahead of the pack in the genre.

Mal BlumPity Boy

Mal Blum announces up front that they still “have phrases” on the opening track of new album, Pity Boy, “Things Left to Say”. One of the endlessly charming pieces of the singer/songwriter’s work is those very thoughts, words, and phrases that cut but gently. There’s an incidental resemblance to the work of Jon K. Samson and his most well-known vehicle, the Weakerthans, in Blum’s material but it maintains its own individual identity that shows they have a unique voice in indie and punk rock. 

There’s a lot of jangly guitars and loose percussion all over the record particularly on “See Me”, a song which openly ponders “why can’t they see me?”, and “Well, Fuck” which takes aim at the subject of rejection and rejecting those that are bad for us. “I Don’t Want To” and “Gotta Go” are energetic blasts of super catchy punk-inflected indie rock that are indicative of Blum being capable of taking things to another level. “Maybe I’ll Wait” is a deep dive into the thought process of staying in a relationship, hoping for its success, all while knowing that it’s bound to fail.

These are all very real and poignant observations about the human condition and how we relate to others. It’s in those crevices and cracks where Pity Boy takes up residence as it reveals not only something about the writer but also about ourselves. That it does so in something of a sugar-coated bitter pill musical form follows in the footsteps of many other artists while blazing a new path unto itself. Ultimately, we’re all in this game trying to get through it, maybe be accepted by someone or someones, and be happy. At the heart of it, so is Pity Boy.

NeckingCut Your Teeth

In the long tradition of punk, one of the hallmarks of some of the most memorable albums is the visceral manner in which some authority figure or other is both portrayed and dismantled over the course of some two-minutes-or-less anthem or other. Having an album stocked with many of these types of tracks while dialing up the sarcasm and aggravation to 11 is an art that has been somewhat lost in recent years. However, this is exactly what Necking achieve on their stark and defiant debut, Cut Your Teeth.

Wielding the requisite influences from the early stages of ‘90s riot grrrl and their forebears like X-Ray Spex the band manages to recycle and re-forge the pieces into a new sharp stick to the eye of the patriarchy. “Big Mouth”, “Boss”, and “Still Exist” are all forceful shocks to the system that carry the kind of energy necessary to make this style of punk vital again. The latter track even feels slightly reminiscent of Black Flag at points while other songs here conjure the urgency of prime Subhumans. The fuzzed out, angular guitars of “Spare Me” hint at a foundation built upon both the major Discord bands of the ‘90s as well as the grunge scene of the same period, particularly Mudhoney.

The key to all of this is channeling those reference points into something coherent and, most importantly, relevant. In a time when we still need jagged, punk rock songs that remind us we still live in a male dominated society and that it needs to be held up for ridicule, derision, and, ultimately, dismantling Cut Your Teeth is, at the very least, a strong supporting document. It’s also catchy as hell and you should plan to get down to it post-haste.

Punk Rock Jukebox: Singles and EPs

Off With Their Heads“Disappear”

A melancholy and furious song about being alone from one of the Midwest’s finest purveyors of punk? Well… I mean, yeah, of course. Their latest album comes out in August but you can binge drink to this on repeat in the meantime.

Meet Me @ the AltarBigger Than Me EP

This EP showcases the talents of three women of color hammering out pinpoint pop-punk along the lines of Senses Fail and Paramore. Tea Campbell’s guitar gymnastics are as outstanding as Ada Juarez’s drumming is explosive all giving Edith Johnson’s soaring vocals an ample canvas to work on. Need more encouragement? The EP is available at “name your price” at the link above. Clicky, clicky.

The Hold Steady“Denver Haircut”

It’s the Hold Steady dropping a bunch of Metallica references (lyrically, that is) so get your favorite bartender to put this song on and you’re set for the night. Oh yeah, this is a harbinger for a new album called Thrashing Thru the Passion

Tiny Moving Parts“Medicine”

It’s more Midwestern emo that owes debts to the work of the Kinsella brothers (Cap’n Jazz, American Football, Owen) done impeccably and memorably by the boys from Minnesota. There’s a new album coming and I couldn’t be more excited. Get hype with us.

The Menzingers“Alice”

It’s the Menzingers doing the thing where they sing and howl about missing someone. So, it’s not ground-breaking but it is the musical equivalent of putting on your favorite hoodie just as the weather turns cold again. 

FloorboardsOne for Sorrow/Low EP

Do you miss Polar Bear Club? Floorboards are here to remind you what was great about that band while providing their own fresh take on the style. Extremely promising stuff and another “name your price” entry. Do the thing.

Grayling“Cursed”

Lexi Campion is Grayling, Grayling is Campion. Every note. Every single one of them are worth your time. Don’t waste time by missing out on this lovely slice of garage-y punk that resembles the very best of Rainer Maria.

BrutalligatorsFriends I Wish I’d Had EP

This English band produces powerful next wave emo that is very worth your time. If you like the Floorboards track above or what Tiny Moving Parts are doing then you’ll probably dig this as well.

Sleave“Homebound”

Richmond, VA has been an ample breeding ground for punk for a very long time. Sleave combine the energy of the Lawrence Arms with a vocal delivery that bears a faint resemblance to the Smiths… that is until they channel some of the hometown shouting of RVA’s Strike Anywhere.

Pixies“On Graveyard Hill”

One of the most influential bands in the history of modern rock music are preparing to release a new album later this year. This is the first single. Click the link for the video already.

New DesignWhere I Need to Be EP

Says here this band is influenced by Moneen and American Football. Those notes check out. 

Peach Club“Not Ur Girl”

Potent British riot grrrl with big fuzzy guitars, bass, and shout along vocals. 

DZ Deathrays“IN-TO-IT”

There’s nothing subtle about this band or this single from their upcoming full-length due at the end of August. This is all about swagger and attitude as much as it is the huge racket the band produces along the lines of Arctic Monkeys on a fuck ton of acid.

PINE“Maladroit”

This Canadian band produce dreamy pop-influenced melodic punk rock. This track is the first single from their upcoming debut. Get in so you can say you “knew them when”.

Stone Lions“Apologies”

With all due respect to the current incarnation and collective history/talent of Blink-182 since we can’t quite expect them to release new material that reminds us of their past (fair enough) Stone Lions take up the banner quite well. 

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