Glenn Robinson’s 2013 release ‘Modern Mistakes‘ is an underground classic. On that album, the ex-Prozacs man delivered several first class punk pop nuggets which, tempered with the performer’s love of old school power pop, resulted in a record that kind of defied the passing of time. The Ramonescore influences were channelled through various 90s punk outfits; the occasional nods to skinny ties and power pop borne from something a little older, but whatever the style, Robinson’s energy and enthusiasm always shone through. His following EP – ‘Everything Is Stupid‘, released in March 2015 – perhaps seemed to be that album’s leftovers, but was no less enjoyable for sticking to tried and tested formulae.
In the summer of 2016, Robinson returned with an eagerly awaited full length. In classic punk tradition, though, the idea of full length is purely relative, since ‘Unimpressed’ barely clocks up twenty minutes for eleven tracks, but it’s very much a case of quality over quantity, with Glenn taking on various aspects of pop culture and human dumbness as well as embarking on a ‘Retrofuturistic Nightmare’.
‘TV Road’ mixes the more typical pop punk riffs with a more abrasive edge. In this case, an extensive use of stops and a buzzsaw guitar sound on parts of the verse that harken back to the days of Husker Du’s ‘New Day Rising’. To counterbalance those harsher edges, Robinson drops in a hooky chorus and dresses that with a slightly complex counter vocal, which lends everything a very busy air. It’s fast and sharp, but also very appealing. More in keeping with straight up punk pop, ‘Small Talk’ is Offspring-tastic; the bouncing riff is unrepentant; the lead voice is snotty and the general vibe is tossed off with a wryness. Somewhat of a left turn, this track includes extensive use of sax, both in bolstering one of the main riffs and also in place of what should have been a scorching lead guitar break. The big question is, does it work? Surprisingly, yes – and what’s more, it makes it one of the album’s highlights.
‘Thirteen o’Clock’ stokes up the Ramonescore elements with its scattergun vocal and buzzsaw guitars…and delivers something almost perfect. Robinson’s ability to tap into a sharp melody and a great chorus makes this track sound like a leftover from Green Day’s ‘Insomniac’ career peak, while the blistering ‘One More Fiasco’ melds a punk-pop hook to the much missed skatepunk sounds of early No Use For a Name to great effect. Both tracks raise the quality threshold, but ‘Betamaximum Sentence’ is an instant classic. While it is hampered by a quickly tossed off one line chorus, everything else about the track is absolutely killer. Straddling a style between punk pop and hard edged power pop, there’s more of a tune creeping in more than before, with Robinson throwing out staccato riffs and a surprisingly pointed melody pushing everything towards a Vapid/Cheats sound. This is great…but the presence of the should-be legendary Kurt Baker on vocals makes it even greater.
‘Nothing (Something)’ is another Green Day inflected workout, complete with the kind of vocal filters that marred ‘Uno’, ‘Dos’ and ‘Tre’ – and is very much a case of a good tune that would have sounded better in a more organic set up; the title track brings crashy punk with a very familiar melody and as such is meat and potatoes work for the performer, but the aforementioned ‘Retrofuturistic Nightmare’ ups the ante once more. With a strong focus on a pre-chorus pop melody, Robinson unleashes more of his bubblegum leanings while some alien craft theramin noises really add to the trashiness of it all. High octane riffs and a sci-fi obsession added into the mix result in some of the best Ramonescore sounds.
The Screeching Weasel-esque ‘Honestly’ never rises beyond punk pop by numbers (though isn’t necessarily bad for that, obviously), while ‘Problem Amplifier’ benefits from both a much stronger hook and the return of the sax for maximum quirkiness. Joining standouts ‘Thirteen o’Clock’, ‘Small Talk’ and ‘Betamaximum Sentence’, fans of bubblegum punk and a power pop cheekiness will also love ‘Everybody!’ a sharp track that delivers the best in melodic punk pop. Here, a Ramonescore backdrop is lifted by a few interesting guitar leads and a strong chorus ensures this song will be in your head for hours. It’s potentially one of Glenn’s best tracks up to this point and he’s seemingly aware of this as he tosses out the riff from ‘Beat On The Brat’ to close with tongue firmly in cheek.
This album is short. Very short. Whether that increases the intensity and gives a feeling of increased energy through brevity, or perhaps should have been four tracks longer, well, that will be a matter for debate. What it does, of course, it does well. While a couple of tracks might appear to be tried and tested by numbers affairs on the surface, it’s all tightly constructed, while occasional power pop tendencies and sax breaks suggest that Robinson is always looking to broaden his palate with subtle amendments. Youth, disenchantment, Kurt Baker, planetary invasions – as short “b” features go, this has everything you need without the aid of Gene Barry or Jonathan Richman.