Release Date: Jul 10, 12
“Punk rock died when the first kid said/’punk’s not dead, punk’s not dead.’” Those lines from the Silver Jews classic “Tennessee” definitely rang true until recently. In the past couple of years “punk” has seemed fresher, more interesting, and more innovative than in the previous two decades. And though punk is split up into seemingly-infinite circles, each one progresses further into interesting territory with each passing release. From the strange yet catchy post-punk existing on Danish label Tambourhinoceros, to the irresistible hardcore punk of Canada’s Deranged Records, punk seems to be less of a misnomer these days as it was in the 90s and early-millennium. Oakland’s Burger Records is another label in particular that are undoubtedly packed with bands filled with the punk spirit, but rather the classic punk of the 70s and 80s.
They’re a label that truly top each release as they go forward, and one of Burger’s earliest awesome releases was by a band of teenagers from Fullerton, CA called Audacity. Though Audacity were young, their debut album, 2008’s Power Drowning, was filled with strong garage punk hooks and youthful exuberance that seemed more “hardcore” than most contemporary hardcore punk bands. And though the band has had a few smaller releases (singles/EPs) since Power Drowning, not a single song has been wasted as their second album Mellow Cruisers was released earlier this week.
Mellow Cruisers is definitely just as youthfully exuberant as Power Drowning, but now that the members are in their early-20s, Audacity has become a tight and uniquely talented garage punk band. The album starts with the tempo-changing and 77-sounding “Indian Chief.” “Indian Chief” is the perfect reintroduction to one of Burger’s best bands, as it reminds you of how exciting, unique and catchy Audacity can be in a short amount of time (the song clocks in at 2:16, and changes many, many times between start and finish). Following is “Garza Girls.” Whether it’s about the Doublemint Twins (Nicole and Natalie Garza) or not, the song has a very 80s-kitsch to it, and the quiet chorus turns this summer-sun-punk song into a bright power-pop gem.
The next song “Punk Confusion” starts with the classic angular-guitar that was prominent on Power Drowning, but the band somehow manages to successfully transition that guitar-filled verse into one of the album’s catchiest choruses. Singer Matthew Schalfeld rants “I can’t get you/out of my mind or into my head/from your room into your bed/if I can’t have you, take me instead/love’s a roller coaster,” and in under 2 ½ minutes, “Punk Confusion” will definitely hook you into this album if the first two songs hadn’t yet. The next two are just as solid. “Subway Girl” is a cheeky Weezer-like affair that describes a tempestuous relationship through Matthew Schalfeld’s terrific vocals. Then we have the very mature and pretty power-pop track, “Dhaga.” “Dhaga” has a very “She’s Leaving Home”-spirit to it, as seems to be about being sick of the town you live in, whilst filled sadness because you truly never want to leave.
From there we go onto “Persecuted” and “Funspot,” two songs that wear their King Tuff & Gentleman Jesse-influences heavy on their sleeves. “Persecuted” has a brilliant Tommy James-like swagger to it, and some excellent, vibrant guitar, while “Funspot” is the perfect “getting wasted” jam, and is a surefire party-pleaser. The album reaches its pinnacle with the last three tracks. Starting with the tempo-changing “Ears and Eyes.” This song is another Weezer-ish song, but it ends in the perfect prescription of power-pop and upbeat 77 punk as the song transitions from a slow shake to a moshpit-inducer in under one minute of the three minute jam. Then we have the dark and somewhat political track “Chili.” When the songs chorus pops in (first slow, then in epic speedy-fashion) Schalfeld sings “Founding fathers in their graves/their finding it hard to believe/when the United States are shot/when you’re turning off your clock/remove the constitution/so we can have some fun tonight.” Lastly, we have “Extensions,” the most classic rock-leaning song on the album. “Extensions” has really brilliant lyrics about the difficulties of small-city life, and features some very grown-up-defiance in lines like “contributing to the cesspool/your court-system’s got me robbed.” The song and album closes out in a repeated and epic punk gang-singing of “it’s what I need,” before it fades into Gun Club-like oblivion.
Audacity are a very rare band, and Mellow Cruisers is a second album that shows a band growing up whilst still retaining the things that made people fall in love with them in the first place. The angst-y vocals/lyrics, speedy guitar and drums, and melody-controlling bass are all the winning elements that Audacity pulls off, even in their young progression. Even if punk rock dies again (which would account for the umpteenth time anyways, right?), one thing that is for sure, is that Audacity are great musicians and have a serious knack for melody that stands above any dying genre. Through the friendship they’ve had with Burger Records, King Tuff, and tour-mates Natural Child, Audacity have developed through observation, an even more enamored-compass towards melody, and Mellow Cruisers perfectly showcases that. Mellow Cruisers is a successful power-punk record, that’s well-produced, well-written, and undeniably catchy and fun.