Punk rock is to pop-punk what cocaine is to Coca-Cola – a defunct, bewildering reminder of all-but-forgotten origins that survive only in the name, and only to those ageing few who remember. Punk was a cultural behemoth that ignited the imagination of a generation. Pop-punk has Tuesday club nights, pizza tattoos and spotty twenty-somethings writing about Californian sunsets in their childhood bedroom in Wrexham.
But here’s the thing – pop-punk is huge again. And Liverpool’s WSTR will be huge one day. Their momentum since forming less than two years ago has been remarkable, and the online hype surrounding debut full-length album ‘Red, Green or Inbetween’ is massive – its announcement was accompanied by the anthemic single ‘Lonely Smiles’, which received an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
“We’re fucking great at being basic” claims Sammy Clifford in his faux-American accent on opener ‘Featherweight’, and he’s not wrong. They have the formula down to a tee – the fizzing riffs of ‘Footprints’ and ‘Nail The Casket (Thanks For Nothing)’ come alive through suitably punchy rhythms and guitars compressed to the point of combustion.
Tracks which are considerably more pop than punk such as ‘Eastbound & Down’, pack less of a punch yet retain a remarkable knack for a sugar-sweet melody. And, even though Clifford’s vocal is unwaveringly whiny, it somehow never grates. His unvaried delivery disguises moments of true anguish amongst tales of partying excess – ‘Lonely Smiles’ is in truth desperately bleak, while “I’m bleeding out, and I can’t feel my face” suggests hurt that goes far deeper than any break-up on ‘The Last Ride’.
‘Red, Green, or Inbetween’ is eleven tracks of breathless and unrelenting energy, epitomised in ’Gobshite’’s thirty-eight seconds. It’s not new, but pop-punk never was. It has always harked back to better days and misremembered youth, invoking the spirit of bands that haven’t been cool for at least a decade. As a uniquely divisive subgenre, it is reviled by hipsters to metalheads – yet it inspires and gives hope to many in only the way music can. And that is pretty punk rock.
‘Red, Green or Inbetween’ by WSTR is released on January 20th on No Sleep Records.
Words by Peter Stewart (@PeteStew_)