THE OWEN GUNS – EP2: Electric Boogaloo EP

Following a couple of hugely unsubtle singles (the hardcore rant ‘Fuck Cyclists’ and the Rose Tattoo meets Hard-Ons rocker‘It’s Too Late’), Aussie punks The Owen Guns unleashed a furiously angry six track EP in the summer of 2020. It was everything the previous singles suggested it would be: brash, crass and – most importantly – loaded with massive hard rock/hardcore punk crossover riffs. The band’s furious verbal attack on the then US president (‘The Ballad of Cheeto Hitler’) even outdid most of their lyrical assaults. In a little over ten minutes, the relentless haranguing that drove the bulk of ‘Violating Community Standards’ set The Owen Guns in place as a band you just wouldn’t – and probably shouldn’t – argue with.

2021’s ‘EP2: Electric Boogaloo’ brings more of the same via another seven angry numbers that mix subtle as bricks social commentary with expletive laden hooks and a handful of crunchy riffs. Everything is destined to please fans of old school punk delivered with an unmistakable Aussie accent. An instant highlight – and an example of the band’s more direct approach to everything – ‘Everything’s Fucked’ tears out of the gate with a buzzsaw riff on loan from Minor Threat. Taking everything at full pelt, the tightly wound riff underscores a dual vocal that’s so lo-fi it’s actually hard to pick out its finer points, but a hook where frontman Sean St. Leone repeats the title over and over, set against a second vocal providing a call and response effect, does everything necessary to grab the attention. After pummelling through a minute and a half’s worth of something that sounds like a tribute to the earliest days of Dischord Records, the band change tack and drop into a sledgehammer riff, where a slow and pounding groove mixes a more 90s hardcore groove with a slab of metal oriented sludge. ‘Is This Punk?’ takes a tongue in cheek swipe with something more melodic, kicking off with the drum riff from Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ before descending into a massive riff that mixes the sounds of the legendary Rose Tattoo and something garage punk based. It’s a simple enough riff, but when played at volume, the intent is clear. Throughout most of the track, Sean muses whether the performance is punk, before the more punk ‘n’ roll coda delivers the pay off to genre snobs that “no-one cares”, very much in the style of a football terrace chant.

Although chosen as a pre-release single, ‘Sick’ barely clocks in at a minute long, but the band makes every second count. The track kicks off with a surperb bass rattle leading into another hardcore riff that is clearly influenced by a 1980 vintage. The breakneck speed is counterbalanced with an almost surf-like lead guitar and the effect is like hearing Dead Kennedys’ East Bay Ray sitting in on a Black Flag session, while Angry Anderson vents his spleen to anyone who’d care to listen. Again, the lyrics are partly disguised by a loud snare drum and incredibly overdriven guitar, but the final refrain, delivered by a full roar from the whole band more than gets the song’s message Mixing themes of about not being selfish during a global pandemic with a call for tightening US gun laws, it’s incredibly pointed, but also incredibly important. In terms of a musical suckerpunch, it’s great, but the thirty five second blast of ‘Jim Sickoli’s Dead’ reaches for even more of an extreme. Even thought almost as much time is spent on studio chat intro as a song itself, the few riffs that emerge within its quickfire duration actually seem even more effective due to a couple of effective stops.

In a change of mood – and branching out into a lengthy tune by usual Owen Guns standards – ‘Just Being With You’ provides something more accessible via a blend of fuzzy hard rock and dirty hardcore. The opening riff is a dead ringer for a couple of Screeching Weasel tunes from back in ’88, but the number becomes a more distinctive, dirty sounding Aussie rock/punk hybrid as it hammers its way, with Sean even trading in the shouting for some actual singing. First listens suggest it’s something of a sideways move – never as much fun or as effective as the most hardcore tunes – but given time to adjust, between a great riff, a ragged solo and evidence that someone in the band knows their way around a big hook, it has plenty of its own charm. It would work better with a stronger and even more melodic vocal, but then again, that really isn’t what these guys are about.

Rounding out the EP, the bass heavy ‘Out of Time’ sounds like a clear homage to the first Sick of It All EP for the first minute, before switching the mood to introduce Judge-like snare drums and a massive crowd baiting wordless chant (all very simple, but again, great hardcore), while ‘Expert In A Minor Threat T-Shirt’ brings together all of The Owen Guns’ best traits in a perfect two minutes. The lyric name checks a seminal influence while pointing out how some hardcore fans are pious and self-righteous “armchair critics” who clearly never understood that the original hardcore/straight edge scene was supposed to grow from a grassroots unity. Musically, it’s just as sharp, resurrecting an almost perfect US hardcore sound via a massive guitar riff, while various gang vocals on a huge hook call back to the early Sick of It All and Agnostic Front. With a shrill lead break along the way, and a clattering finish where spoken voices further share their discontent with these “fucking shitheads”, it becomes one of the most consummate Owen Guns recordings to date.

As with previous Owen Guns material, those wanting introspective messages and/or more than a decent share of Buzzcocks and Ramones style melodies will find almost nothing to connect with here. This band are reaching out to the fans of the early 80s American hardcore scene with both hands and, to a lesser extent, the UK class of ’77 who might be looking for some rowdy nostalgia. None of it should be taken to heart or, in most cases, too seriously; The Owen Guns are here to take you from your everyday grind and offer a brilliantly noisy distraction. With attitude and energy always more important than originality, hardcore fans can be guaranteed some classic sounds, especially since ‘Electric Boogaloo’ delivers more hardcore goodness in twelve minutes than some bands manage in the full half hour. Recommended.

April 2021