Following a string of digital singles and an EP, this album by Austrian punks felt a long time coming. Not only because the gradual release of singles built up interest slowly, but also because the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the planned recording of the bulk of the material. Better late than never, The Pigeon Boys finally released their first full length in the summer of 2022.
‘Detox/Retox’ isn’t always immediate in punk terms. A couple of the vocals are pretty rough, and a couple of the slower tunes capture a far more sedate band in comparison to a lot of their Monster Zero Records label mates. That said, it captures some great music within its filler free half-hour, and it’s the kind of record that sounds better over time. Somewhere around that all important fourth play, it’s the kind of record that any self-respecting melodic punk fan should love.
At the album’s punkiest, ‘Teenage Romance’ takes a Ramones influence in terms of speed, but rather than just recycling pop punk’s thousandth version of ‘Beat On The Brat’ with new lyrics, it mixes the familiar sound with tougher punk ‘n’ roll drums and a jagged guitar, providing the perfect backdrop for a world of gang vocals dropping the title as a repeated refrain. In and out in under a minute, it’s one of those great examples of semi-melodic punk doing its job in the most succinct way. With no room for flab, this is up there with half of Screeching Weasel’s underrated output on their ‘Teen Punks In Heat’ LP, and ‘Isn’t It Funny How People Suck?’ almost captures something just as energetic when it taps into the speed and agitation of early Bad Religion, without losing sight of The Pigeon Boys’ own take on classic punk. Throwing out some great semi-thrashy riffs guitarist LX displays a really tight approach to rhythm work, and although a slightly muddy production makes the vocal seem a little buried, any potential flaws actually accentuate the cool factor here, making a fairly accessible sound not seem too commercial.
Also cool, ‘I Wish That’ mixes the classic sounds of bands like Strike Against with the Euro punk of DeeCRACKS to create a high energy speedball of punk that captures The Pigeon Boys’ core sound very effectively. Although the main riff falls between classic pop punk and melodic punk – seemingly happy to recycle a familiar sound, the playing is very strong throughout – a well placed whoah or three injects more of a timeless appeal, making it impossible to date this track from any point after the mid 90s. In terms of perfect pop punk, ‘Spaceship’ could be the work of any number of Lookout/Fat Wreck bands from days gone by (a compliment in itself), and with the band injecting a slightly poppier edge, there’s plenty of room for a lead vocal to shine before a xylophone solo is dropped in for a great melodic quirk. Stretching further beyond the usual hard and fast punky format, ‘Quit Pro Quo’ introduces a punchier sound driven by a very pointed lead guitar placed over a sharp intro, before descending into some hugely melodic pop punk where a slightly scratchy vocal seems a little at odds with the music. The number eventually wins through thanks to a great tune that constantly pushes the track forward. Hints of early Rise Against inform a great pop punk-ish sound; an underplayed harmony vocal on the chorus helps to make The Pigeon Boys sound much fuller than your average three piece, and by the time everything takes a final bow with another round of rousing whoahs, this has the potential to be one of the album’s standout cuts.
In terms of clear highlights, though, the even more melodic ‘The Night Himo Died’ presents the band at their most accessible via a chunky punk rock riff and deep rattling bass that adds a real warmth to the arrangement. Although the bulk of the main melody recycles some tried and tested melodic punk, a really tuneful vocal lifts it way beyond being run of the mill fodder and a cheeky lyric concerning dead Dungeons & Dragons characters suggests a cheeky, geeky humour that works very much in the band’s favour. Cranking the speed once more, ‘I Lost My Baby’ is another clear winner with its lightning fast riffs and breakdowns directly “borrowed” from old Ramones tunes, with lyrics spat forth with a punky glee. Sure, it’s one of those times when The Pigeon Boys don’t even try to lend a new slant to their Ramonescore/melodic punk, but for sheer power, it definitely shows them at their best, as does ‘Do It Right’, a number where more massive whoahs are used brilliantly against another hard and fast punky riff, and the music is driven by some great drumming courtesy of Chris Pigeon – always a strong backbone for the band, but certainly very much the driving force here.
Slowing down a little, ‘The Day You Gave Me Your Heart’ is a prime slice of melodic punk, drawing from many of the 90s Lookout Records bands with a chugging guitar providing a solid musical heartbeat. Like a cross between prime Queers material and The Mr. T Experience with better vocals, this isn’t shy of flaunting many a “na na na” when it comes to delivering that all important, indelible musical hook, and in doing so, it’s set to win the heart of many a pop punk devotee, even before linking verses with another obvious Ramones-lifted breakdown. Further showing how melody plays an important part of The Pigeon Boys’ sound, ‘My Heart Is Beating For You’ is one of those retro bubblegum power poppers that is very much modelled on the slower Ramones material, but as is often the case here, a slight European accent on the melodies and harmonies sets it apart from obvious plagiarism, and the Boys’ love of a big whoah continually lends a pleasing harmonious edge. Those paying closer attention will appreciate how well produced this album actually is: the middle of the track offers a round of perfect handclaps – one of the most difficult things to capture on tape effectively. The time this would have taken alone proves that this is a cut above your average knockabout punk fare.
Like all punk bands, though, The Pigeon Boys aren’t perfect. At the less impressive end of the scale, ‘Dr. Brutal’ serves up a fairly generic US skate punk riff and interjects that with a couple of unexpected hardcore breakdowns set against a wobbly whoah. Despite the playing being tight, the gravelly vocal isn’t that impressive, and the lack of obvious chorus hook makes it the album’s weakest link. It seems odd that the band would use this to open an otherwise strong long player, but at least it gets it out of the way quickly…
In terms of tight melodic punk, The Pigeon Boys hit the mark more often than not. Although a couple of vocals could be a little more user friendly and the lack of gang vocals on some of the bigger hooks can make them sound a little less forthright than some of their contemporaries, most of the choruses are hugely catchy, and the music has huge concession to melody that runs rings around your average Ramones influenced punk outfit. Although a little more of a slow burner in terms of long-term appeal, ‘Detox/Retox’ shines very brightly and is very much the kind of record that won’t become stale quite as quickly as some. Recommended.