It’s abundantly clear that the band could have done much better.
You know punk rock when you see it. In this case, when you hear it. It’s more an ethos than a sound but it’s still a sound. It’s funny that way. When it comes to The So So Glos, the Brooklyn-based, punk-infused indie rock band, the sound may register on the indie side of the spectrum, but it’s the band’s attitude—the snotty, pissed off attitude—that allows their music to be in a punk rock conversation. Even if they’ve already been there and done that.
Kamikaze does two things well. First, it delivers the grit and nastiness of punk rock through The So So Glos’ lyrical cynicism and nastiness. Second, it shows off pop sensibilities that hinge on the occasional dancehall beat and heavily trebled guitar riffs that are as catchy as the vocal hooks. It’s pretty much what The So So Glos have been doing over the past decade. It’s not a great leap or a musical progression as it is an example of a band refining their sound.
While songs like “A.D.D. Life” and “Cadaver (Career Suicide)” have an interesting slant on the band’s root sounds, they’re more or less gossamer. While winners like “Dancing Industry” and “Going Out Swingin’” are really, truly excellent-sounding tunes—hitting on every note you could hope for from a band like The So So Glos (catchy, noisy and adrenaline-fueled)—it’s difficult to deny that the lyrics are more or less paper thin when placed under a microscope. Hearing a band go on saying, “Hey come gather round/ Let’s have another round/ Tonight I’m going out swingin’” is great fun. But that’s about it. Yes, of course it’s punk and indie rock atomized and rearranged, but there are more traditional punk rock bands out there these days with quite a bit more nuance and tact than this.
As critical as the previous paragraph is, it must be said that Kamikaze is a great record with which to pop into a car stereo and drive around smoking cigarettes and flipping folk off. Even the lesser tunes add to a really excellent spit-in-your-face vibe that songs like “Magazine” (a straight-up punk tune in its own right) and “Inpatient” manage to create with ease. In that regard, The So So Glos succeeded mightily here. But considering the finest track on the album, “Sunny Side”—a fantastically dark and acoustic guitar-driven lament rounded out by some lovely string arrangements—is sort of the antithesis of everything Kamikaze strives to achieve, it’s abundantly clear that the band could have done much better.
There’s something to be said about a band who strives to try new things with punk rock and indie rock music, even if their definition of “new things” is cramming those genres together to see what shakes out. The So So Glos have been successful with that fusion, but after 10 years with only a glimpse or two here or there that show the off real fruits of the genre combo, the question of why they haven’t tried something wholly new yet has to be raised. Again, you know punk rock when you see it—or hear it. And these guys have that attitude and that sound mixed interestingly enough with indie rock. But their influences should be informing their music these days. It shouldn’t be beholden to it.