Album Review: Lithuania – Hardcore Friends

imageThere’s loads – and when I say loads, I genuinely mean you cannot go a single day without another band playing dirty, grunge-influenced punk rock jumping out at you. It could get tiresome – indeed, we’re reaching the plateau on just how much I can take of this sound.

But just when you think you’re fed up to the back teeth with it all, a band like Lithuania comes along and reminds you just how exciting it can be when it’s done right.

Hailing from Philadelphia, Lithuania (AKA Eric Slick and Dominic Angelella) have been knocking around for 10 years. That ‘Hardcore Friends’ is their debut full-length is quite remarkable, yet while it may have taken them a decade to get it done, they don’t hang around once they get started. Opener ‘God in Two Persons’ is an unpretentious, joyous punk blast – two minutes of buzzing guitars, rolling drums and Green Day style rat-a-tat lyrics. Throw in a punchy chorus and you’ve got a fine opening song which gets you right on side from the get-go.

If that’s a good start then the neurotic ‘2009’ is even better. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the best punk songs you’ll hear all year, blessed with a chorus that should be banned in public places due to its infectiousness. It’s another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but it clearly buys Lithuania enough goodwill that you can ignore the generic and pedestrian dirgy grunge of ‘Pieces’.

Indeed, it’s in this early mid-section when things go all a bit pear-shaped. ‘I Wanna Drink Poison’ plods along with little intensity and, although it’s a welcome change of pace from the frazzled, frantic opening it’s very much a slow-burner rather than a raging bonfire. ‘Coronation Day’ is another sidestep from the brilliant openers too. Acoustic-heavy, it builds to a swirling maelstrom of noise and effects. It’s enjoyable, but feels somewhat out of place against the more direct, raging numbers.

Talking of which, ‘Deaf Gene’ is a rather fabulous return to form for Lithuania after the little lull. It’s another ripper blessed with a chorus pulled straight from the top drawer that is just begging you to punch the air and sing along.

In fact, for the second half of the album, there’s little to no dip in quality, with each song following what Lithuania clearly do best – that is write pithy, punchy punk songs with big chorus and a veneer of grungy guitars. There’s a couple of deviations – ‘Question’, for some reason, reminds me of the Stone Roses in the verse, while the title track displays more indie influences as well as a guest vocals from the instantly recognisable Frances Quinlan (Hope Along). However, compared to the, previous dalliances at the edges of their sound, the inclusion of some monstrous choruses means ‘Hardcore Friends’ doesn’t end on a downer.

The result is that ‘Hardcore Friends’ is something of a riot. It’s a stylistic mishmash, built around a bedrock of punk and grunge, but it’s also undeniably contagious and hugely entertaining. It’s a shame about the meandering mid-section, but Lithuania have delivered an immensely strong debut. Indeed, if a Beach Slang tour wasn’t enough, having these guys in tow makes me jealous of our American cousins…

4.5/5

‘Hardcore Friends’ by Lithuania is out now on Lame-O Records.

Lithuania links: Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)

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