Back in February 2020, just before the world went utterly tits up and various things became far more important than punk rock, French band Maladroit released a great EP entitled ‘Steven Island’. Its four songs blended simple punk hooks with Spielberg obsessed lyrical themes, and although it was all rather silly, it showed off a band that could knock together a catchy tune or three. Obviously, that EP subsequently got lost in the noise, but as with all good music, it’s never too late to check it out retrospectively. You’ll be glad you did.
This follow up, delivered three years later, pokes fun at a different corner of the multi-billion dollar Hollywood machine. ‘Real Life Super Weirdos’ presents a selection of uptempo punk tunes inspired by the big business comic book heroes from the Marvel and DC worlds. When these come into the Maladroit firing line, fun is pretty much guaranteed, even if the musical arrangements might seem a little predictable to anyone who’s spent time with the band before.
‘Turn Green’ kicks off the record with a jagged riff set against a massive drum sound, setting up a tune that resides at the noisier end of the Ramonescore scale,m reintroducing a band who aren’t afraid of a brilliant stop/start riff. This invites immediate pogoing, whilst a fuller sound elsewhere blends the melodic punk of Face To Face with some brilliant, crisp sounding lead guitar work. Vocally, it’s rather gruff – more DeeCRACKS than Dan Vapid – but those looking for great punk will have a blast. Moving through the more melodic ‘Go Toxic Avenger’, the band slide effortlessly into a bunch of riffs that owe more to classic Fat Wreck Chords bands of the 90s, showing off some great melodic punk skills which, joined by a much more palatable vocal – in this case, almost a power pop croon – gives the release an early highlight.
Stoking up the bass and working a great muted riff, ‘Easy Peasy’ sounds a little more like a homage to Sum 41 at first, but blooms into a fun sing-along piece where a couple of CBGB’s influenced riffs lurk behind the usual pop punk. A layered sound not only showcases a great bass sound throughout, but is also home to a well honed soaring guitar tone, used effectively as a lead during the track’s climax. If that’s not enough, the hook about being “king of Dad Jokes” is particularly infectious. Overall, it’s fair to say this is great melodic punk and if you’re not sold on this, then Maladroit just aren’t for you. In a similarly punchy mood, ‘We Are All Superheroes’ shares a brilliantly pointed vocal, a rattling guitar riff that would make Dan Vapid proud and a rousing hook that’s great, despite never veering much beyond pop punk 101. Sometimes the tried and tested approach is all you need. Meanwhile, the Screeching Weasel-esque ‘Rich Assholes Won’t Save The World’ taps into some perfect, slightly aggressive Ramonescore where a mix of shouty and melodic voices lift a simple hook. As with a couple of other tracks, some great drumming kicks a familiar arrangement up the arse in a way that shows that Maladroit are set to give new life to an overfamiliar style.
‘Day Drinking’ occasionally sounds like one of Screeching Weasel’s more tuneful affairs, especially during an intro with a ringing guitar set against big drums, and its rousing gang vocals – used brilliantly throughout – offer a strong call back to classic punk. As with most Maladroit tunes, the arrangement mightn’t be strikingly original, but it’s very well played, and by the time an instrumental coda is reached and the band build upon an already great tune with a huge lead guitar presence, it shows their effortless knack of lifting a well worn sound just enough to make it feel fresh. Taking a slightly more leisurely approach and applying a jagged guitar riff to a slower tempo, ‘Super Villians’ recalls childhood “Trick Or Treat” jaunts on a tune that’s shares some superb melodic punk colliding with early Weezer geekiness. On the surface, it’s fairly ordinary genre fare but, as before, a couple of great musical flourishes give everything a lift. In this case, a lead guitar break makes great use of some very pointed notes, whilst an aggressive drum roll leading into the last chorus beefs everything up considerably. …And then, there’s the chorus: with natural harmony vocals galore, the band really sells a timeless pop punk melody, and the pop inflected sound and commercial edge really helps it to stick.
For those looking for something a bit more punky, the full throttle riffs that drive ‘Another Boys Club’ attack with a brilliant speed and sharpness, adding a slight skate punk edge to an already taut sound. With an increased bass rattle, the track has an all round gruffness that’s pleasing, before taking a dog-leg into a drum heavy middle eight. Those who’ve been absorbing US punk sounds since the early 90s will find an immediate love, before ‘We’ll Never Make It To The Bronze’ changes the mood for one of those jaunty, mid tempo 60s inspired tunes that the likes of The Ataris have always loved. Musically, it’s great – all warm bass and chiming guitars – so it’s a shame that a shouty vocal often does its best to derail everything. In terms of stylistic choices, it’s so misjudged, but with a heavy influence from Weezer’s blue album informing the tempo and guitar tone, it’s never a complete washout. If nothing else, its a solid reminder of how easily Maladroit can make a great power pop melody their own.
Upping the ante in terms of (enjoyable) childishness, ‘I Peed In My Batman Costume’ works some great melodic punk on a tune loaded with muted riffs and natural vocals, and recounts the kind of basic childhood trauma such a title suggests. The urgency of the toilet-ing is supplied with a wall of riffs such a disaster deserves, and the repetitious nature of the lyrics ensures you’ll burst into song at an inopportune moment later in the day. That would all be enough to make this unfortunate novelty stand out, but a final round of vocals where the band calls out Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck for not peeing in their own Bat-Suits raises the bar in terms of low brow humour. It isn’t as funny as The Apers’ ‘Jamie Oliver’ or ‘Dear Ben’, but its a potential genre classic all the same.
On top of all of that, the band also bring a couple of lightning speed bursts of silliness en route. ‘To The Batcave For Cocktails’ fills a whole thirty seconds with thrash infused punk riffs contrasted with a siren-like lead guitar, and ‘Operation Poison Ivy’ takes a hard and fast Ramonescore sound a little further towards the melodic hardcore of Strike Anywhere, whilst retaining a melodic ear on a clear vocal. Tunes such as these could be seen as filler, but that would be unfair. They show a band at their absolute tightest, musically; with no room for error, the rhythms are relentless, and with a limited time to make a point, the hook needs to be immediate – the ultimate punky hit and run. On that score, both numbers are near perfect.
Is this juvenile? Sure. Is it good? Yes. Do these twelve songs add something enjoyable to the vast mountain of pop punk and Ramonescore out there? Without question. ‘Real Life Super Weirdos’ is the kind of record that half of the third division punks in the US always hope to make, and it takes the more frivolous elements of The Bouncing Souls and The Vandals to the next level. Simply put, it’s great, good time punk you won’t want to miss…and released at a time when the world seems a little less tumultuous than 2020, it deserves to bring Maladroit some well deserved new fans.