Sunday, September 22, 2013

Album Review: The So So Glos- BLOWOUT - "A monument of punk rock"

I have not seen The So So Glos since February of 2011 when they performed at a Peter, Bjorn and John Secret Loft Show in downtown LA. It was a brief but impactful. About them I wrote. "They have a decidedly British punk sound ala the Clash, (but not), with wonderful downbeats punctuated by piercing guitar leads. No one is doing this kind of jag as good as the So So Glos. As I listened to them jam I was longing for my old Doc Martens". It was true then and is true now. Since then, I made the mistake of losing sight of these Brooklyn punk rockers so when they released their latest album "Blowout" I was eager to hear what they've been up to.

Brothers Alex (bass, vocals) and Ryan (guitar) Levine, Zach Staggers (drums) and Matt Elkin (guitar) have (in one form or another) been thrashing on instruments since they were little kids. Having grown up together and tearing into music as a form of explosive bonding and escapism has seriously resulted in a truly significant piece of work. When you hear the songs on Blowout they feel in your gut like songs that have existed for decades and are established bonified monuments of punk rock. Alex does have the strident vocal strain of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones combined that certainly makes your mind think back to the late 70's and early 80's but it is not only that, it is sonic tone the So So Glos have honed. The production is stellar and thick with energy without adopting the Fuzz and garage rock / lo-fi leanings of many indie bands today. The vocals are front up with a smartly spartan music bed of kick ass drums, heavy bass and guitars (and other elements) set back but not too far to kick serious ass. In this regard, their sonic tableau has more to do with bands like The Clash or The Descendents. I guess I am old school but this particular sound really appeals to me.

The songs are also so well rendered and show a diverse range. You have the full on punk rock with clearly Americana rock strains and crowd grabbing power of Son Of An American, House Of Glass, Blowout, and Lost Weekend. In some ways these songs have as much connection to an artist like Springsteen as to Brit punk. These songs thematically and sonically create images of rebellion, "fuck off" hopefulness and wanderlust. Diss Town with it's sharp edges and drum changes has an almost 79 Mod feel like The Jam. The break of "Oh, oh ohs" is brilliantly stirring. Xanax with it's la la beginning and Speakeasy feels decidedly Brit / Mod / Punk. They jam like hell but have light carefree underbelly. Wrecking Ball is balls out rock feeling like a punk rock anthem with power pop guitar licks and a crust punk attitude. Totally out of left field, All of The Time feels like Burt Bacharach could of written it if he as a punker and liked to drop F-Bombs. Amidst the angst and anger their is an elegance in both melody and production.  Everything Revival with it's delicate bell starting dives head first into a jagged bit of punk pop revelry. The So So Glos continue to ease into a lighter flavor with Island Ridin that shifts from punk pop to punk ballad and the amazingly charming Dizzy full of acoustic guitar, toy sounding piano and a summer carefree beat that feels more like the Monkees than the Clash. Don't worry it still has a purely punk rock heart as does the entire album.

In Blowout, the So So Glos have crafted a truly engaging album. It is cliche to say that it sounds timeless but it really does. The songs also manage to make you want to cheer, dance, mosh your ass off and smile broadly. This will undoubtedly be one of my favorite records of this year. Good fucking job guys.
Robb Donker-

As of the time this review was published you can stream the album here.

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