(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Recording review - Convalescents, Armageddon (2012)

Breakneck punk pop in perfect bite-sized chunks

Dylan Busby's DB and the Catastrophe has reformed as Convalescents after a topsy turvy year of line up changes. The name change signals clarity of vision rather than a major shift in direction. Where DB and the Catastrophe's Don't Look Back (review) allowed for distractions like ska horns and virtuoso bass lines, Convalescents keep the focus on the high energy pop punk foundation they've always had.

Armageddon keeps a relentless pace from start to finish. Not to deny Convalescents' originality and impressive execution, this could be considered the best Green Day album in years. If not quite another American Idiot, it is on par with 21st Century Breakdown. Before anyone takes that comparison as a dig, consider how many bands have aspired to Green Day's mantle and fallen pathetically short. It's not that Convalescents are aping Green Day (no more than Johnny Winter ripped off Muddy Waters). Instead, they're taking the inspiration and injecting their own energy and personality.

The opening tune, Scratch Scratch, set the tone right from the start. The lyrics offer the kind of socio-political commentary that latter period Green Day has settled into:
The press has taken over now
Their words of wisdom are mass controlling
They say the world's gone to hell
Panic surges, the neighborhood burns down
Busby's vocals aim for Billie Joe Armstrong and nail it. The wall of guitars chop through the tune at a breakneck pace, but there's still some room for some subtle walk-up fills here and there. The drumming is particularly impressive during the bridge as Ben Duncan lays down some thunderous low end rolls.

Armageddon does a good job of stirring the musical pot. The tracks flow together well, but Convalescents change up their progressions, giving each song a unique feel. Where Scratch Scratch runs at a steady frantic rate, Stay Pure crams a double-timed, Kinks-style set of chords to a thrash beat. Chunked palm mutes and speedy drum fills anchor the whipsaw feel of the song. True to the punk standard set by the Ramones and the Minutemen, the songs are short. This lets the band swing for the fences, packing each tune with sparks and thunder.

Punk is all about attitude, but too many bands seem to use punk as an excuse for sloppy playing. Convalescents capture the intensity and expressive emotion, but the clean production and spot on playing make Armageddon a great album.

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