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

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Recording review - Dad Punchers, Dad Punchers (2012)

Bummer punk comes of age

I nominate emo-core as the official soundtrack for being 15 years old. It's an age packed with contradictions: vulnerability and rage, fatalism and rebellion, maturity and an ache for simplicity. The style's confessional lyrics, wild dynamic swings, and cathartic grind reflect that teenage turmoil. And even though I'm well past 15, this kind of music still speaks to me. Like my teen self, I still wonder sometimes what the point is and why do I need to care so damn much.

Dad Punchers' self-titled debut mind melds with my inner 15 year old.  They may call their genre "bummer punk," but it's a potent blend of emo-core and pop punk. Elliot Babin, drummer for Touché Amoré, started the band as a side project, bringing in bass player Matt Ebert to fill out the sound. Babin's voice is perfect, shifting from emotionally drained weakness to self-righteous frustration to fit the moment. On tracks like "Redwoods", his raw vocals convey a remarkably deep sense of need, craving validation against the staccato drive of the song. Then his defiant chorus on the next track, "E. Coli", matches the thrashy guitar energy: "Let your empires burn/ Learn to live and learn."

But the real gems on Dad Punchers are the more thoughtful tunes that show a greater maturity. "Post-coital Tristesse" may start whimsically:
I've found a new home
Between her neck and her collarbone
And I've hung my photos
From the earlobes
But the mix of surprised joy and gratitude recalls Dramarama's "Incredible". Both songs ache with love, but shine a light on the outward signs of dysfunction. Babin wraps up his analogy accepting all the downsides of the relationship: "We've got a broken A/C/ The hinges, they creak/ And I continue to sign the lease."

Similarly nuanced, "Cul de sac" shows a grown up perspective on passing through life's milestones:
The time when the house you grew up in
Is referred to as your parent's house again
A sense of nostalgic loss pervades the tune. The music is gentle and delicate against the simple lyrics, yielding a pained beauty. The song builds up to a cathartic wash before resolving back to sing about when you inherit your parent's house. The song makes its point with understated clarity.

Ringing guitars balanced by softer insights, this is what 15 is really like. Pounding a drum one minute and missing the simplicity of childhood the next, Dad Punchers understand the tumult and share it well. At 23 minutes, the album qualifies more as an EP, but it's a tasty morsel.

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