In punk rock, we’re always rooting for the home team. Even if it’s the same warbling vocals and recycled progressions we’ve all heard a thousand times before, if they’re from your hometown, they’re the best band ever. The proof of punk being an inspiring presence is often enough to elevate the mediocre to local legends. So, since I transplanted to the Portland, OR area I have encountered more than my share of local bands, and I’ll always be in their corner because they represent art being vital and self-sustaining, competency be damned. But I recently had a magic moment in my new hometown: that rare and mystical occurrence of wanting to like a band, seeing said band, and loving them. Geography be damned, some bands are meant to transcend. 48 Thrills is one of them.
That’s How it Go!Oh!Ohs! is their debut record, and on it they thrash and shout and harmonize through ten tracks of the kind of pop punk that make dusk-lit skate parks a place for growth and catharsis. Packed with addictive melodies, both instrumental and vocal, 48 Thrills provides the glue for their words to stick, and the energy to make it stay. The sheer intensity on display reminded me of Against Me!’s Fat Wreck days, where the band further proved that aggression needn’t be mistaken for passion and vice versa. There’s a similar feeling at work on That’s How It Go!Oh!Ohs!, where full throated melodies become gravel inflected calls of perseverance amidst slice of life imagery. The energy here is reckless and excitable, but its not enraged. Its fucked up, neurotic, but ultimately stoked to be alive.
“California Sun is Such A Drain” opens the album appropriately with a howl of “So this means hello.” The verse builds upon itself instrumentally, opening with sparse drumming and strummed chords, culminating in the bass mirroring the vocal line as gang vocals shout “It’s so hard but that’s life.” From there it kicks into high-gear with breakneck drums and whoas backed by the distorted grind of trebly guitars. 48 Thrills show a knack for pretty dynamic songwriting, never submitting completely to the pop punk mouse-trap of monotonous two minute buzzsaw drones. Here, everything sounds alive and huge.
The most immediate and magnetic element behind That’s How It Go!Oh!Ohs! is the underlying vibe of relentless positivity. The cohesion comes early with second track “Look What You Started,” and the song-stopping lyric: “I hope you feel safe every day for the rest of your life.” It distills everything about progressive politics, why-we-fight polemics, and counter-culture activism and puts it into a single very human wish. As someone who frequently fights with punk rock’s sometimes misguided, but mostly just tedious politicizing, hearing the goal so plainly stated effectively cuts away the bullshit and puts it back into an empathetic realm.
The album closes with the five and a half minute “It Feels Like I’m Not Trying,” a song that sustains every second of its epic-for-punk runtime with its colossal hook. Here, the length feels like a warm goodbye, and its catchy refrain makes it all the more communal– its the type of tune to be shouted with best friends in the midst of the hottest pit on the coldest night.
I’ll always remember the night I saw 48 Thrills live. I remember the electric energy that filled the room– the muscular strums and the full-throated howls that transformed chords and melody into tangible magic. Punk rock is dangerous by nature; it snarls and hisses and fights to be uncaged, but it also relies on art to express that cause. Here, 48 Thrills have taken this individualistic genre and used it to craft something personal and hopeful. Punk will always be dangerous as long as its in the hands of individuals, but sometimes we need to be reminded that its not all studs and lip rings. There’s joy and creativity at the heart of the music, and more so the joy of creativity. That’s How It Go!Oh!Ohs! is ten tracks that combust with energy and life by people with hearts that beat hard and often. If that’s not punk, I don’t know what is.
Add 48 Thrills to My Radar