THE CAROLYN – Harmful History EP

Pop punk/indie punk band The Carolyn have been likened to The Gaslight Anthem and The Lawrence Arms, and one listen to their 2023 EP ‘Harmful History’ will make it really obvious why. These guys truly wear their influences on their collective sleeve, but in terms of any recycling, it results in something that’s been made with love. More importantly, its familiarity makes it massively enjoyable with immediate effect.

The title track doesn’t give the listener the grace of an intro to get acclimatised. After a sharp chord, the vocal crashes in with a massive energy, and the combination of tuneful voice and speed driven, jangly chords sets up the heart of a superb sound. A couple of lines in, and you’ll be thrown back to a semi-retro pop punk world, and reminded of a time when The Atari’s ‘…Next 12 Exits’ and The Lawrence Arms’ ‘Apathy & Exhaustion’ were among your favourite albums. Throughout a particularly sharp ninety seconds, guitarist Andrew Patrick hammers some very jagged, rhythmic chords that straddle a fine line between punky harshness and a blue collar grubbiness, whilst the clean lead vocal carries a huge amount of melody – enough to make this sound like a perfect homage to top tier pop punk circa 2001. Listen closely, and beneath the heavy jangle and raw harmonies, you’ll hear a few deep bass grooves and a harmonic sound that really fleshes out the otherwise generic riff, whilst thoughtful lyrics regarding being cautious about careless conversation adds an emo-ish slant that ensures the end result is more sophisticated than the many DIY punk/street punk bands filling Bandcamp at the time of release.

Equally sharp, ‘LBB’ employs the huge muted chords and blue collar melodies of peak Gaslight, and blends in a few high toned guitar notes to lift an already great melody. The way the slightly gruffer vocal soars above the jagged riff sets up a great balance between power and melody, and despite this not being as immediate as the opener, it still showcases a band that clearly understands the importance of a great arrangement, before the trio stretches out a little further on a cover of The Cranberries’ ‘Salvation’. On this great recording, every effort has been made to increase the sharpness of the main riff, before a slightly angry vocal proves to be far preferable to Delores O’Riordan’s love it/hate it warble. The end result sounds as if huge dose of Gaslight Anthem has smashed headlong into one of the noisier Lawrence Arms tracks even though the source material should be familiar to most, and with the worldless hook transposed from a strange wail to a pop punk friendly “do do do”, it actually becomes even catchier than the original cut.

In a little under six minutes, the band arrives and makes their musical point, before exiting just as sharply. With no room for filler or pointless excess, and with a great cover thrown into the bargain, this is a perfect exercise in direct melodic punk that’s a great follow up to their ‘Rhythm of My Own Decay’ release from 2022. It doesn’t add anything particularly new to the world of pop punk/melodic punk as a whole, but fans of the style will find an immediate kinship with the three short blasts the EP offers. That will certainly be enough for ‘Harmful History’ to make its way into your regular listening schedule.

June 2023