September 4th, 2015 | Album reviews

Innovative Leisure

Beach punk? No, this is On The Beach punk, for people trying to live their lives like they always did as the world ends slowly around them. Way back when, they made a song called “Summer Fun” that wasn’t about summer fun, and ever since Tijuana Panthers have been daring people to listen to the lyrics. Says “Set Forth,” an propulsive anxiety-rocker equally dedicated to the Swell Maps’ clatter and Alternative TV’s disillusionment: “She loathes the beach / no progress, just regress / hey, nice dress / when’s recess?” If I didn’t know (and couldn’t tell) how funny and sharp these guys are, I’d call this a bleak and even angry record. Of course the very next song starts out, “Send down the bombs / on our heads tonight / oh yeah!” but maybe that’s what you’d call dark humor? Really, Poster is an outside-looking-in album in the psychic and sonic tradition of groups like the Crazy Rhythms Feelies, the Embarrassment and even (demos era) Modern Lovers or (demos era) Devo: people who took a step back from the world and saw the cracks and dirt intended to stay hidden. Says slo-mo closer “Trujillo”: “We comply with your corruption / it facilitates my false comfort / I saw the angels, they told me / my beliefs that will rescue me.” Summer fun! Other hits: “I Hate Saturday Nights” and “Gated Patio” are spin-offs from the Cure’s “Grinding Halt”—both the music and the “no people” part, with varying levels of detachment —and “Miss, You Hardly Know Me” is the unsettling story of unmooring one’s personality. (“I was sick of dreams / I wanted sympathy / human contact / ‘Miss,’ I said, ‘You hardly know me.’”) Producer Richard Swift finds a meticulously ramshackle sound that fits the band and the mood: things COULD fall apart, but we’ve got it how it we need it … for now. (A cover of the Muslims a.k.a. Soft Pack underscore same: “I don’t know what’s right, I don’t know what’s wrong anymore / I tell you it’s no good hanging people out to dry!”) In a way, Poster offers a sort of conscience for its genre, whatever combination of “surf” and “punk” and “garage” history determines that to be. These are pop songs where someone says (once again) that the way things are in pop songs is not the way things really are at all. Obviously, this is my favorite thing they’ve ever done.

—Chris Ziegler