In 2018, Italian punks Proton Packs contributed a couple of tracks to an excellent split EP with fellow Italians The Livermores which acted as a superb primer for both bands. The Livermores had already started to gain traction with their Ramones obsessed sound, but for a lot of people in the UK and the US, that split provided a superb introduction to their space-obsessed friends.
Throughout the tricky years that followed, Proton Packs weren’t especially prolific by “usual” punk band standards, but they trucked on, and their subsequent full length release ‘Paradox’ cemented their obsessions with old Ramones riffs, b movies and cheap sci-fi. It was a great record; however, it still wasn’t enough for them to get the regular name checks alongside The Apers, The Manges and Mega they so deserved.
This two tracker from 2023, issued in the US by the often reliable Mom’s Basement Records, gives potential (and should-be) fans everything a great Proton Packs recording needs…and more, despite being decidedly micro-sized.
The title cut kicks in with a superb melodic punk riff bolstered by an incredibly forceful snare drum sound, before branching off into a Ramones-ish tune where dominant guitars are underscored by a faint, brief melody that sounds like a cross between something lifted from an old sci-fi film score or incidental music from a 60s TV show. The arrival of the vocal sets a further great punk melody in place with a performance that blends a strong melody into a natural tone. That’s enough to keep the verse buoyant, but it’s upon reaching the chorus that this track really blossoms, though, when a worldless harmony vocal is introduced. This really fills out an already great tune, and the guitar work stretches to include a sharper lead sound covering the basic riffs in a way that helps the tune appear very full indeed. Most punks would consider that a job well done and merely repeat the same formula a second time to finish the number, but Proton Packs show off a greater level of musical skill by venturing into an instrumental break where a deep, hardcore tinged bass throws out a great riff and a lead guitar hints at something vaguely surfy. In a little under three minutes, this is a remarkable piece of melodic pop punk that showcases some great musicians at work.
On the flip, ‘Psychokinesis’ aims far more at the hearts of the Ramonescore purists with a jaunty number that sounds like a cousin to most of the Dan Vapid catalogue, taking Proton Packs into a place where simpler Ramones influences collide with bits of ‘Anthem For A New Tomorrow’ era Screeching Weasel. Looking more closely at what listeners are offered, there’s a great energy in a slightly scratchier vocal, some really tight riffs, and the kind of chorus that’ll stick after the third play. With a muted guitar brought in for a middle eight and a punk ‘n’ roll riff used quite well in place of a guitar solo, there is eventually a little branching out here, but it still feels quite safe if measured directly against the previous track. Its more predictable nature never makes it bad, of course, and there’s still plenty here for punk fans to get excited about.
By presenting two quite different arrangements, this 7” does a very good job in providing an overview of Proton Packs’ combined talents in a very condensed way. This release is absolutely loaded with riffs and hooks in such a way that you’ll definitely question why this Italian band aren’t greatly known outside of punk circles in Europe. If this disc from Mom’s Basement opens them up to a few more US and UK listeners, its work has been done. If you consider yourself any kind of fan of Ramonescore or smart pop punk, you need this – guaranteed.