2017 is the year for ‘70s power-pop revival, with albums from Sheer Mag, White Reaper and Beachheads all garnering a significant amount of attention. Toronto’s Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs are following suit with their sophomore self-titled effort, cleaning up the rough-around-the-edges punk of their debut.
Yet another foray into this genre could prove tiresome, but Coffey and the gang just make it so damn fun. The combination of the razor-sharp guitar work, Coffey’s strong, distinctive vocals, and the sing-along hooks throughout the album make the songs sound a lot bigger than they actually are. That’s not to say that the songs aren’t already great – the synthy ‘Voicemail’ is a lot of fun, while ‘Pressure’ takes things to a heavier place and breaks the album up nicely, and ‘Ragnarok’ is classic three-chord pop-punk.
Some of Coffey’s lyrics either subvert (‘Talk 2 Her’) or poke fun at (‘Tough’) the banal machismo of rock music, too. This means that while sonically, the record is a throwback, the words behind the music place it firmly in 2017.
Most of the album’s latter half is made up of a ‘Trilogy’ of songs, which, while they don’t sound particularly connected, do offer some of the album’s best moments. ‘Teenage Release’ jumps between meandering verses and a succinct, shouty hook, but never sounds awkward, and retains the party-esque feel of the rest of the release. ‘PhD’ appropriates elements of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ to great effect, giving a sense of triumphant finality to the preceding ‘Trilogy’ and fitting in well with the throwback feel.
While the album is at its best during ‘Trilogy’, this works to its detriment sometimes, as it overshadows some of the other tracks in the first half, ‘Judy’ being particularly forgettable.
Despite this, Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs have delivered another welcome power-pop throwback album, developing their own sound, and giving a decades-old genre a new lease of life.
‘Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs’ by Sam Coffey & the Iron Lung is out now on Burger Records/Dine Alone Records.
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Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)