Following the release of their 2011 LP ‘There Are Rules’, pop punk band The Get Up Kids found that real life got in the way of art. Instead of continuing the never-ending cycle of recording and touring, band members took time out to raise families. Seven years is a long time in music – in any scene – but especially so when it comes to punk. One day you’re singing about skateboards and girls, then you’re in an adult world and somehow – unless you’re Joe Queer – those things that occupied teen and twenty something minds just don’t seem appropriate any more. Hell, on their self-titled album and ‘Neighbourhoods’ even blink-182 attempted to look at the world through maturer eyeballs. Some people didn’t like it…but at least they showed they could move on.
In 2014 Italian punks The Nuts released their self titled EP. It gave the world four short and sharp pieces of female-oriented Ramonescore that set the band out as one to watch. Even in a world awash with similar bands, there was something about The Nuts’ gutsy performances and love for the style that made them truly stand out.
Split releases are always interesting, but once in a while one will come along that’ll be utterly amazing. This 2018 release from I Buy Records (Italy) in conjunction with Mom’s Basement Records (USA) featuring unreleased tracks by Italian punks Proton Packs and The Livermores is such a disc. Although neither band is hugely well known outside their home country, both are capable of supplying first rate Ramones styled pop punk that’s as well played as any.
After a slew of 7”s, a couple EPs and three albums, Germany’s Neon Bone have had a long time to perfect their brand of pop punk. On their fourth full length, ‘That Dog Won’t Hunt’, they’ve not quite turned in the perfect pop punk record (the benchmarks set some, including the Ramones’ ‘Leave Home’ and The Apers’ ‘Confetti On The Floor’ are hard to beat, to be fair), but bringing things closer to home, it’s easily be the best Neon Bone offering so far. In fact, it’s bloody great.
With bands like No Fun At All and Millencolin helping to fly the flag and carry the banner, Sweden has provided plenty of pop punk protein since the 90s. The Hangups follow very much in the tradition of the classic Lookout! Records releases; in fact, this Malmo based trio sound like a product of a time machine experiment to bring back the best bits of Screeching Weasel and Parasites records for their debut EP.
The opening track on this self-titled disc wastes no time in flaunting their love of those particular bands. The whole number really shows a love for Dave Parasite’s melodic charm circa ‘Punch Lines’, while peppering each of the instrumental breaks with a lead guitar that would do Ben Weasel and the more approachable John Jughead proud. Digging a little deeper, obviously the vocal comes with a slight European accent which, much like Hateful Monday, provides some of the charm, but in terms of structure these guys aren’t merely just recycling Ramonescore by the (1-2-3-4) numbers. The chorus, in particular, is impressive showing a slight power pop tendency that might just about reel in a slightly broader audience. In short, if you like pop punk, you’ll love this track – it’s the perfect addition to your next digital mixtape or online playlist.
‘I Don’t Wanna Be With You’, on the other hand, is a straight up Ramones homage, just played more aggressively. In under two minutes, this shows that these Swedes are able to completely nail the style in hand; it also demonstrates their unnamed drummer really knows his way around his kit. The chorus is both sneering and insanely catchy; the lead guitar break casts an ear back to ‘My Brain Hurts’ era Weasel and the sheer energy alone is enough to make this enjoyable. Moving into something a little longer – though still shy of three minutes – ‘Alone’ mixes a punchier, more jagged rhythm with a hugely melodic vocal line. Having used a couple of numbers to warm up, it’s here The Hangups go for broke punctuating most lines with a hefty “whoah” or trusted “oh yeah!”. There are ghosts of so many classic Lookout! bands within the DNA and yet a combination of talent and boundless enthusiasm ensures this sounds anything but stale.
Last up, ‘It’s You’ is an eighty five second belter that is impossible to dislike – provided you’re punkily inclined, of course – and The Hangups take all of their previous traits and pummel them into something a touch more aggressive. While still very much of their own making – something recognisable through the accented voice – their love of pop punk again tips the hat to Screeching Weasel, but also harks back to the faster and more affronting tracks from the earlier part of No Fun At All’s catalogue (something probably ingrained due to geography). Although there’s not much time to sink your teeth in to this track – or indeed, the whole EP – there’s time enough to appreciate Hugo’s deep rattle of a bass and especially the way it locks in firmly with the work of the mystery snare basher.
Obviously, the vinyl version is the best format, but digital buyers get an extra track, ‘Not OK’. There’s little to be said, except that it ploughs a similar furrow to ‘I Don’t Wanna Be With You’ that brings a combination of speed and well worth having…
For fans of Ramonescore sounds, this is an EP that deserves to be in heavy rotation. Yes, it’s short – too short – but there’s a whole world of fun to be had listening and the band’s love for the style creeps through every note. In short, if you love Screeching Weasel, The Apers, Radio Buzzkills, Parasites and/or K7s, you’ll have a new favourite to add to your collection. Grab it as soon as possible.