Do punks ever grow up? Maybe, but it doesn’t mean they become lame-oes. Los Angeles snotties Bang Sugar Bang are back with their second album and it’s a welcome growth from their slightly too clever debut.
BSB is a band that has built their home on hooks. Big ones. Even the songs on this album that don’t make sense have you singing along. Drawing from some of the same LA punk staples as their last effort, BSB also dips further into the well and comes back with a sleeve soaked in great influences.
Despite the title, “Punk Beat” (mp3) actually borrows more from the New York New Wave scene that followed on the heels of the original punk movement with a decidedly dancey beat and early Blondie delivery. We’ve all heard the stories of Richard Hell and Debbie Harry hanging out—this is what it must have sounded like.
It’s always interesting to hear a song develop over time. As it happens, “The Machine Gun Song” (mp3) has been in vocalist/guitarist Matt Southwell’s bag for over ten years. He’s finally nailed a recording that captures both the punk/pop exhuberance and the snide attitude the song has always had. This is a song that should be on every bitter break-up mix CD.
BSB’s vocalist Cooper’s style is most often compared to Exene Cervenka, but “Kill the Radio” (mp3) has our heroine tapping her inner Chrissy Hynde with her best vocal performance on the album. The expansion of influences and musicality is also evident on “Alright,” the album’s most musically interesting track showing off a bit of spunk from drummer Pawley Filth.
While there are some clichéd spots here and there (the scenester bashing “Tony” or the punk rock roll call of “Sunday Night”), they’re delivered with such energy and undeniable hooks that you soon forgive any faults.
[Full disclosure: Derek Phillips is friends with lead guitarist Matt Southwell and in fact played with him years ago in the amazing Vantrells. Still think it’s inappropriate to review a friend’s band? Tough shit.]
What happens when you can’t break into the LA scene? Well, you know what they say; Can’t beat ’em? Fuck ’em… Glorious Noise interviewed Matt Southwell of the band Bang Sugar Bang, who started their own club when they found booking by traditional means to be a hassle. Instead of try and try again, Southwell and Co. took matters into their own hands and ended up with a fanbase that’s small but dedicated—something most bands would kill for.
What is punk, who is punk, where is punk? It’s been over 30 years since punk broke and we have less of an idea what it is today than we did when Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy gave it to us.
And here we have a punk compilation of 11 bands who don’t at all sound alike, yet share a common groove in punk rock. From the joyous pop of the Randies‘ “Boys in Stereo” to the Deadboys-inspired Deadbeat Sinatra (mp3), to the early 90s buzz and melody of King Cheetah‘s “Victoria in Reverse” (mp3), a lot of ground is covered. The only sub-genres missing seem to be straight edge and ska.
The Kiss or Kill mob has been building their own scene in LA for a couple of years and have recently begun to take their acts on the road. This comp is a great sampler of bands you MUST see live.
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.)