There’s not exactly a shortage of bands who sound like Burnt Tapes out there. Gruff, melodic punk in this vein has been a mainstay of the scene for a few years now, elevated and perfected by bands like Hot Water Music and The Menzingers. And yet, new bands continue to crop up, to the point where it’s worth wondering if we actually need any more around.
And listening to ’Never Better’, the general answer seems to be while they might not be needed, they’re sure great to have around. As much as they wear their influences on their sleeve, Burnt Tapes’ are doing a pretty great job at emotionally-driven alt-punk that can’t be ignored. There’s the same chunkiness and windswept quality to the guitars that give tracks such as ’Drift Champ ‘16’ and ’Dirt Roads’ their sense of scope, as well as an unmistakable earthiness, particularly in the vocals, that holds so much presence.
Again, a lot of these exact qualities can be attributed to countless other bands (perhaps too much in the case of tracks like ’Maybe I’m A Method Actor’), but it’s not like Burnt Tapes don’t have the same ear for real anthemia, and to see it cultivated in such a strong way here is always good. As far as auditions to break into the big leagues go, this does a lot right, immediately gravitating towards ironclad melodies on tracks such as ‘Yuzi’ and ‘Robert Cop’ that really hit the right spot.
That’s why it’s tempting to be kinder to Burnt Tapes than is perhaps wise. After all, there’s a lot of growth to be done to really show what they’re capable on beyond emulating such recognisable sounds. But those sounds are good on their own, and for more of the same of a genre that still has a lot of mileage, ’Never Better’ is more than worthy of a look.
‘Never Better’ by Burnt Tapes is released on 22nd February on Lockjaw Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)