There’s a new school of cool in rock and you better get on board or you’ll be relegated to back of the class. What? You say you don’t give a shit about the new cool? Well then…
How many times have you seen the MC5 or the Stooges namedropped in a review of whatever messed-hair band New York can cough up? It’s as if music was born the day Iggy Pop left his Ann Arbor basement and crossed paths with the Ashton brothers. Guess what? Detroit in 1968 was not the alpha/omega of music. As much as I love those bands and that sound, can’t we move on?
Hollywood three-piece Bang Sugar Bang realizes the Stooges and the MC5 weren’t the only pages in the punk rock playbook. The late 70s and early 80s saw music at least as acerbic and caustic radiating from the sun bleached streets of Los Angeles from the likes of X and a dozen other bands only your oldest brother who had a rat-tail in his senior picture would recognize. The later punk movement was naturally touched by new wave and hints of that most misunderstood movement peek through on Bang Sugar Bang’s debut.
“Explosion” is the best example of how BSB combines the speed and anger of punk with the style and wit of new wave. Like the Pixies a decade ago, Bang Sugar Bang understands you can be simple without being a simpleton. Great lyrics and a few more than a few chords give this song the dynamics to get your attention and the depth to keep you interested beyond that first listen.
BSB doesn’t limit themselves to a couple influences. There’s a fair dose of the Jam in “Paul Edward” and Low-era Bowie on “Velveteen.” Even our boy Iggy pops up on “She’s So Up” though it’s the late 80s version of the Man of Abs rather than the bloody mess of 1970.
In addition to stepping out of line with their influences, the production of Bang Sugar Bang’s album doesn’t follow the neo punk rules either. This was NOT recorded on a 4-track in two days while locked up in NYC’s Chelsea Hotel. It’s slick. Sometimes too slick with some heavy flange guitar and jokey interludes that distract from the great songs, but the playing is tight and punchy without being polished.
So if you’re tired of the cooler than thou attitude and intentional messiness of the new rock, Bang Sugar Bang provides tight songs with rocking attitude that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re the nerd of the class…again.
(Full disclosure, I am friends with lead guitarist Matt Southwell and in fact played with him years ago in the amazing Vantrells. Think it’s inappropriate to review a friend’s band? Tough shit.)