February 13th, 2014 | Album reviews

The Groms
Alvarado EP
Bright Black 2

I warn any band trying to combine “punk” with even a little bit of “ska” that some ideas are almost unworkable, and through no fault of the actual music. As a fan, I spent many years attempting sonic purism, trying to enjoy tunes on their own terms, each note an island. But I’ve come to terms with the truth: context (a band’s scene, its place in history, what sounds immediately preceded and followed it, and the cultural landscape of the intended audience) is and has always been as important to how a band will be enjoyed as what notes it plays.

And the context of ska-punk is that the 90s oversaturated it. A lot of less-than-reputable people (read: the brotards) now kind of own ska-infused punk, despite how amazing Operation Ivy and Fishbone sounded to my young ears in the early 90s. And hey, the same thing happened to me and surf-rock, one of my favorites! That damned scene in Pulp Fiction basically drove surf music into mass popularity, then into oblivion just as quickly, so hard and so deep that I couldn’t DJ a single Sentinals or Eddie & the Showmen song at rock clubs for about a decade! Hell, I remember when rap and metal could actually sound good together, e.g. Anthrax with Public Enemy, or Run DMC’s “Raising Hell,” or Urban Dance Squad! But noooo, the goons of Woodstock ’95 had to come along and do it all for the nooky, killing a potential thread of greatness in the process that I will now never be able to play on a DJ set, or even at a barbeque without causing a few complaints, or perhaps even in my bedroom, because rap lyrics over metal crunch now evoke in my brain the terrors of Nu Metal and all that the late 90s wrought…

But I digress. Anyway, the Groms’ “The Takeover” gets as close to tasteful as ska-tinged punk music can be in 2014, referencing the Talking Heads and Dead Boys, and having more of an Oingo Boingo cadence than a Save Ferris one. The other two tracks on this EP are solid, hi-fi punk, with plenty of charge and changes and power and solid vocals by Wrecks Brixton and his brother B.G. The song “Blood” is yet more Dead Boys-ish, by way of Lords of the New Church and the Damned, with some creepy “whooos” and call-and-response choruses. And “Howlin” is a werewolf-themed ditty about cemeteries and skeletons that would sound great on a Return of the Living Dead soundtrack. Hmmm… I guess this was basically released as a Halloween EP, which shows just how long it takes me to get around to some of these reviews.

I suck.

-D. M. Collins