SEITANS – Vegan Nights

Featuring members of The Furies, Seitans are an Italian punk band with a pre-occupation with Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy…and vegan food that gave them “the shits”. On this album, they take a classic Ramonescore sound and push it into overdrive, whilst aiming to entertain genre fans with a bunch of tales that involve a lack of animal products, perilous dates, Alice Cooper name checks, purse snatching and picking up a girl in a bar who might or might not be a famous actress.

At the album’s purest, ‘Ramona Not You’ applies a Ramones ‘Leave Home’ inspired arrangement to a bunch of speed driven chords, instantly making Seitans sound like an energised Apers or Riverdales. With a great rhythm and energy set in place, a classic Ramonescore vocal hammers through each verse, whilst a more melodic second voice adds a few great harmonies throughout. It would be great punk based purely upon those factors, but the band goes the extra mile by exploring a slightly more adventurous coda where harmony vocals, a broader melody and cheeky keyboard sound lifted straight from a couple of old Screeching Weasel tunes creates the perfect finish. Taking something that sounds like the guts of ‘Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment’ and giving them a shake, ‘Questioning’ shares more speed oriented punky thrills helmed by a really sharp rhythm guitar. After setting up a perfect Ramonescore sound, the band sets about sharing a strange narrative about luring a girl to a desert island where there’s a massive pig. It doesn’t really make sense – possibly the product of writing in a second language – but it doesn’t have to, since the repetition and vocal hooks work purely on face value. In just seventy four seconds, Seitans serve up some of the tightest Ramonescore ever here, guaranteed to thrill fans of the style. ‘All Over The Place’, meanwhile, suggests another easy Ramones homage at first, but actually stands out due to a couple of odd chord changes which give the track a sharper feel, as per Screeching Weasel’s ‘Pervert At Large’. You might think those sharp riffs will win out, but when it comes to a chorus, they’re more than happy to slunk back into something more ordinary to make room for a great counter vocal, showing how Seitans understand the importance of a relative melody. A couple of plays is enough to show off a tune with a real drive, and its big hooky chorus makes it one of the album’s standouts.

Taking a more melodic stance, ‘My Favourite Song’ takes musical cues from Dan Vapid’s own take on a Ramonescore sound and has a slightly cleaner tone. It’s more melodic, yes, but not actually any more commercial; pretty much everything about it sticks to genre tropes, making it for fans only. With that, of course, you’re guaranteed a great romp and some catchy moments, and in this case, you’ll find a great riff applied throughout, and a wonderful melody playing through the chorus where a punky vocal is counterbalanced with a much clearer power pop voice, accentuating the retro pop that occasionally lurks just under the surface of Seitans’ punk-pop sound. ‘Missing Life’, another more melody conscious tune, slows down just a touch, allowing for a bigger guitar sound to drive another great pop punk tune with massive Ramones lifts. Joined by a more natural vocal, it doesn’t work quite as well as ‘My Favourite Song’, but in terms of Ramonescore 101, it’s well played, and another attempt at a bigger chorus melody shows the work of a band who aren’t always about pure speed.

There is plenty of speed here, too, of course, and the title track packs lightning fast Ramonescore riffs into less than a minute, whilst showing off a huge love for a couple of old Lookout! bands, and sharing the most puerile “alternative lifestyle” lyric since Joe Queer claimed he didn’t want to be a “granola head” back in 1993. In terms of melody, it isn’t so strong – speed really is of the essence – but a piercing lead guitar does a good job at adding an extra layer to the punky noise, whilst the heavily rhythmic ‘Ghost of Claire Danes’ plays like an old Teen Idols tune cranked to the max and then supplied with a rough DeeCRACKS-ish vocal. In terms of recycling, though, this is superb; the drum sound is really solid, the bass work beautifully taut, and during the climax, a repetitious vocal hook combined with a “gabba gabba hey” inspired backing helps to create one of the album’s greatest musical moments. It’s nothing new in terms of punk – if you’re a fan of the Riverdales and their ilk, it’ll be instantly familiar – but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Better still, ‘Cheap Ice Cream’ takes the rawer end of Seitans’ riffery and augments it with a harmony driven chorus that brings out the best in their sound. Moving into a more 60s inspired melody for part of the pre-chorus, like ‘My Favourite Song’, this more than suggests a care has been taken to pepper the over-familiar with a couple of great pop-ish twists without diluting the punk, and ‘Do The Hop Shake’ kicks off with the purest Ramonescore riff, before dropping into a speed driven belter that values a riff over a lyric, but should easily please fans of other Euro Ramones obsessives like K7s. Is it filler? In relation to other tracks on the album, quite possibly, but it comes with a hook that’s so simple and incessant that, chances are – assuming you love this kind of punk – you’ll love it anyway.

During ‘Do You Miss Me Tonight’, a track that takes a Manges style approach to a Ramones inspired sound with tough sounding guitars, a melodic backing vocal lifts the growly lead and a guitar solo arrives with real intent only to sell itself short. It’s one of the album’s weaker tunes, but even this has a lot of punky charm. Elsewhere, a touch of early Ataris bleeds through bits of ‘All The Way’, taking a semi-melodic approach that suits a lyric that takes in petty theft and a love for Alice Cooper, and a much dirtier sound on ‘Out of Pain’, pushing the bass higher in the mix, without losing the purity of Seitans’ Ramonescore sound. Again, these tracks take a back seat in relation to the best cuts, but each one helps to round out an already great record.

There’s absolutely nothing about this debut that breaks new ground; nothing punk fans will find out of the ordinary, and very little to distinguish the material from three dozen other Euro punk bands. That’s actually what makes it great. Armed with four well worn chords and some brilliantly trashy songs, Seitans fill the twenty two minutes of their debut with a whole world of knockabout, guitar driven fun. If you have any interest at all in a Ramones derived sound, you owe it to yourself to pick up this record – no matter how many near identical ones already fill your vinyl shelves.

October 2023