The band themselves describe the new record as ‘punk rock with an ever increasing emphasis on rock’ and this tells you pretty much what you need to know about the direction they are taking. Not that this direction is so immediately obvious from the outset. ‘No!’ is rather typical of their back catalogue with its anthemic qualities and sharp, snappy riffs alongside Roo’s familiar and disarmingly charismatic vocals.
‘I Don’t Feel Like I’ll Ever Be Clean Again’ is probably the moment where it becomes pretty apparent that there’s a more going on here than the fist-in-air ‘Small Pleasures’ or even the more considered but still very punk-heavy ‘Crazy Fucking Dreams’. The song is allowed time to breathe and develop without all the instruments falling over each other to be loud and fast. The blasts of pop-rock guitar mixed with self-depreciating sentiment recall Weezer and it’s an interesting twist in the band’s musical development.
The structure of their songs feels discernibly less rigid now. Take for an example the whimsically titled ‘The Trousers of Time’, which as far as I can tell goes something like verse (for a whole minute with no drums) /pre-chorus/chorus/post-chorus/back to pre-chorus. It’s a sound you can imagine gives them the flexibility to experiment and go off-piste in a live setting and lends itself a little more towards a watching audience than a hook-hungry pits and pyramids kind of one.
‘Half-Human’ is equally loose and chaotic, and part of the enjoyment of the fact the music paints a less clear or straightforward picture is that you can pick the great moments out like stones from the sand, rather than having them thrust in your face; such as the wonderful lyric as the aforementioned song suddenly breaks into a slow chug don’t wanna be remembered if a memory’s just a line in the dust, I’d rather live forever.’
Even some of the heaviest moments on the album such as the exasperated anger in ‘Stressful Festival’ seem to keep a leash on the fury in a way that Descendants often achieved with their bursts of poppy anger where the darkest emotion can feel almost like a joyous release.
I think most people who are familiar with the band would probably anticipate this change of direction but I still get the feeling it’s going to go down badly with many. It’s Bangers’ least generous release; you’re going to have to work at it to enjoy it and it isn’t going to immediately relinquish its hidden treasures to you. My rating is for the bravery the band have displayed in writing the album they wanted to write, and how I know I’m going to feel about it when it’s all properly sunk in.
‘Bird’ by Bangers is released on 10th August on Specialist Subject Records.
Words by Alex Phelan (@listen_to_alex)