At the tail end of 2013, US punks Science Club released their ‘Aging Punks’ EP, a mid-budget, fairly ragged affair that captured a great energy. Just over a year on, their ‘Day Job’ full length brings more of the same. While the eleven songs are culled from recordings made over a four year period, the album hangs together well. Even with an obviously DIY recording style and ragged production, the musical talents within the band are still obvious – particularly those of bassist Nick, whose busy approach provides the real heart of most of the material.
Kicking off with ‘Another Cruddup Juggernaut’, Science Club may well offer their best recording to date. The rhythm guitars are a little harsh at first, but soon fall away to make space for a grumbly bass and particularly tough drum part. In the centre, the vocals really assert their presence. They aren’t always the most melodic, but are well-suited to the job in hand, coming across with a strong resemblance to the early performances of Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath. While the hook isn’t the most obvious upon the first listens, the over-riding vocal melodies within this number eventually prove an early highlight. For those wanting things to be a touch more raucous, it’s with second track, ‘Bad at Parties’, the fun really starts. Retaining the quasi-slacker vibe, the band crams their punky schtick into half the time. First up, the staccato guitars are so fast and spiky it’s hard not to think of early 80s stuff like Minutemen, while the vocal is so yelpy the band sounds as if they’re set to burst. …And then, everything explodes into another minutes worth of thrashy punk mayhem. ‘Crazy Taxi’ retains the speed but has a more melodic bent in the musical depot – partly due to Nick’s excellent bass work, but also thanks to a slightly slower chorus and the promise of a few whoas. This is almost cancelled out by a really scattergun approach to a few of the vocals, but those willing to work for their musical rewards should still enjoy this. Certainly one of Science Club’s most assured tunes, ‘Fuzz King’ brings two and a half minutes of full on jangle across another track that’s a dead ringer for the early Rise Against, the interplay between the three musicians tight throughout.
For those looking for something a little deeper, ‘Feelings: The Song’ fuses SC’s jangling punk sounds with an emo sincerity. There’s much to enjoy throughout the extended arrangement: the way the second half builds around a barrage of simple whoahs surely has live performance in mind; Joey’s drums switch between snare bashing and more complex rolls while – as expected – the bass plays a key role in terms of over-riding melodies. There’s one snag, however; given the slower pace in places and the extended playing time, there are a few moments here where Nate’s voice grates a touch, the slowing down exposing potential weaknesses in terms of approach – although given the emo-ish bent here, it could just be that he’s wrenching his emotions, and possibly without a safety net. Even so, a wobbly but natural voice wins over post-production filters and fixes every time.
Released as a single, ‘Marathon’ captures the band at full pelt, but there’s more at play than punk thrashing. Despite clocking in at a mere 1:40, this tune really captures the band’s musical chops – the rhythms are tight, the vocals are accessible, the repeated refrain of ‘this is a marathon you’ll never run’ provides a near-instant earworm and, underneath it all, the bass dances about frantically. Although boasting a more demo-quality sound, ‘Selling Drugs In Union Square’ mixes a strong hook with a tough arrangement, driven by loud bass and crashy drums. Here, more than on any other track, it is the music that is the real draw. In fact, there are moments where the (fantastic) bass grooves seem set on drowning everything – but even so, this is a great track, the logical extension from SC’s previous musical experiments.
The sound of this DIY recording might not always do the band full justice and sometimes the vocals are hard to listen to, but the results are often decent. There’s still room for the band to grow, but at this stage, there’s something here for those who wish Rise Against hadn’t smoothed out their sound and discovered those horrible vocal filters…