A refreshing recent trend in music is the emergence of what could be branded “DIY pop punk”. In itself not an entirely new concept, dating as far back as The Buzzcocks, but it offers a modern alternative to ultra-serious, blisteringly heavy DIY punk rock, as well as to vapid pop-rock.
Birmingham’s OPS, for example, might write about serious issues such as mental health and veganism on their debut ‘Sluice Around’, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it by way of a bouncy pop tune.
The key to OPS’ sound is their razor-sharp riffing and their anthemic choruses, of which there are plenty on the first half of the record. This works best on songs like ‘Too Ill’ and ‘Middle of the Night’, which feature heart-on-sleeve lyrical depictions of depression.
However, the album stand out, ‘Snudge’, takes a more lighthearted lyrical approach, being a love song to a cat. OPS sell this vomit-inducingly cutesy concept and lyrics like “when you cuddle up to me/I am where I want to be” as surprisingly earnest, with the emotional delivery of the song, and another massive chorus.
Pure power-pop throughout all of ‘Sluice Around’ might’ve been relentless, but they do manage to switch things up a bit on the album’s second half with the stripped back verses of ‘So Slick’ and the dual guitar intro on ‘Naomi’. ‘Lost As An Adult’ successfully blends a slower, almost ballad-like pace with harsh-sounding guiars, and closer ‘Creeps In’ eschews the loud, distorted guitars colouring most of the album for a beautiful, emotional finish which manages to deviate from the establised sound without being jarring.
‘Sluice Around’ isn’t a perfect album, though. It never quite reaches the giddy heights that it could given the songwriting chops on display here, and there are a few forgettable tracks like ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Reasons’. Despite this, it’s an interesting, well-written debut from a band only beginning their career.
‘Sluice Around’ by OPS is released on 11th November on Everything Sucks Music.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)