Punk is something that has kind of lost its way. There are very few bands that can replicate the brashness and joyous humility that you get with Twin/Tone years The Replacements or the youthful aggression of Minor Threat. In the least likely of places, Oklahoma City, you can find this all being born again through a now four piece band called Sex Snobs. Having released their debut record ‘Lonely’ as a duo, consisting of James Hammontree (Bass) and Alex Barnard (Guitar, Vocals), in 2014, they’ve returned with ‘Pop Songs and Other Ways To Die’, and also with new recruits Billy Reid (Drums) and Daniel Weaver (Guitar). ‘Pop Songs..’ is a record that is full of commentary on modern life as a youth and it’s inanity, along with a plethora of witticisms and crunching guitars.
Opening with a soundbite from the 1950’s monster film ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’ before cutting the crap and bursting into the main riff of ‘Burnt Around The Edge/Pop Songs…’ which, wether you like or not, will sit in your mind for a lot longer than the album which clocks in at just under 30 minutes. Of course, this is the appeal for punk albums. They should be short, sharp and sonically strident. For instance take California’s Mike Krol, each of his records totals 20 minutes, creating a perfect punk discography at just over an hour.
After this you’re barraged endlessly, firstly with ‘Farewell To The Sun, then into ‘Black Friday’ which is a wandering number that crescendos into an assault of sound before relaxing back into the churning bass rhythm. ‘Modus Operandi’ and ‘Ignorant’ carry this through to complete the first half of the record. The second half is where things oscillate between expectations.
‘Horrible Youth’ is the closest that any of these songs gets to a conventional sense of “rock”, and it could be welcomed as a strong single release to broaden their horizons. “You freak me out, you freak me out” in the chorus, neatly sums up the feelings of growing up and feeling alienated. ’Pluto Is Not A Planet’ which harks back to 90’s with a nod almost to Soundgarden amongst others is the most subdued the record gets, with its repetitive psychedelic tones, it fits perfectly as the introduction to the second half of the record.
Finale ‘Happy To Be Human’, begins with what could almost be an homage to Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ infamous drum intro, masterfully done by Reid, which is coated with multiple layers of guitars that utilise repetition, throwing back to that psychedelia sound again. It ends, rather differently, with around 30 seconds of electronic waltz-style sounds.
This record definitely is a strong move forward for the four piece. There’s signs of growth, while keeping true to doing whatever the fuck they want to. Heading back into the studio in January with Steve Albini for record #3, the DNA of punk is still alive, and with bands like Sex Snobs, the future is looking dirty as hell. Just how it should be.
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