Making the step up to a respectable independent label like Hopeless Records can be an intimidating one, and when you’re an up-and-coming UK pop-punk band, you could say the challenge is even greater. However that’s the position St Albans’ Trash Boat find themselves in with the release of ‘Brainwork’. Arriving within a year of their debut ‘Look Alive’ EP, ‘Brainwork’ is certainly set to be heard by more people and, for some, will be their introduction to this rising pop-punk group. Whilst ‘Look Alive’ carried hints of potential for the young band, I was interested to hear how the quintet have developed over the past 12 months. Nevertheless, our (re-)introduction to Trash Boat is one that has mixed results. On first listen it comes off as an ineffective release that fails to stand out from the abundance of pop-punk releases we’ve heard in recent months. Scrappy guitars? Check. Pummelling drum work? Check. Shout-y angst-filled vocals? Check.
However ‘Brainwork’ is certainly a “grower”. Sure it hits all the right pop punk marks but the more you listen to this 13 minute release, it soon becomes an infectious set of angry and sincere songs with plenty of replay value. Opening with chugging and sustained guitars, before ‘Taylor’ kicks into action, serving as a semi-intro track. ‘Saving Face’ is the true EP opener and sets the bands defiant lyrical tone as Tobi Duncan asks “tell me if this mask I made hides my face”. Whilst it goes through the stereotype pop-punk characteristic of growing up and changing your values. Musically TB comes off as more structured than last time out.
‘Perspective’ starts off as a grittier, more sincere number before kicking in with flourishing drum work, energetic guitars and some favourable rhyming; “I don’t need anything from you/or much as anything to help me through”. The whole package is delivered in a favourable ball of pop-punk urgency and goodness. ‘As Seen On Screen’ keeps the uptempo momentum going with Duncan producing an improved vocal display where he truly shows his ability to be a frontman whilst his band continue to show a more thoughtful approach.
The EP closes with the frantic ‘Eleven’. With blistering, pounding drums dominating from the start, Trash Boat go full speed ahead before pulling things back in the middle with a steady tempo and Duncan putting emphasis on the line “Rip my heart from my sleeve, sink it deep inside my chest”. This precedes towering gang vocals that see out the track. It’s a track that promises progression for a young band, who more than often come confined to the stylistic restrictions that somewhat plagued the pop-punk genre.
Whilst it’s far from the best pop-punk release I’ve heard in recent months, it’s certainly not the worst. ‘Brainwork’ documents a band who are still growing and whilst they have developed since last year’s ‘Look Alive’ EP, their style still comes off as your run-of-the-mill modern pop punk. However, with that being said, this short set is carried together with great energy that leaves you hitting the repeat button more times than you expected. Even though Trash Boat aren’t quite on the same level of The Story So Far and label mates Neck Deep just yet, in the long run, ‘Brainwork’ could serve as a stepping stone.
‘Brainwork’ EP by Trash Boat is out now on Hopeless Records.
Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)