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I think every couple of years the underground scene will get a slew of bands that play a particular brand of music and this brand persists until some other genre steps in for it. Think of it as a flavour of the week, if weeks were years long. For example, we had pop infused emo take over the airwaves just last year, before that we had a slew of bands that all sounded either like Dillinger Four or Silverstein and even before that we had skate punk in the 90’s. This is relevant because I feel like the current trend these days is rock’ n’ roll oriented punk rock, with the current giant (and possible trendsetter) being The Gaslight Anthem, who served as a flag bearer to a plethora of bands who have showed us their own twist on this genre. If their new 12’inch, “Nothing Is Fucked Here,” is any indication you can go ahead and add New Jersey’s four-piece, Banquets, to that list.
From the opening riff of “Lyndon B. Magic Johnson” it’s pretty easy to tell what you’re getting yourself into. The warm and rocking riff comes blaring through your headphones and Travis’s melodic and smokey voice singing “I used to run/ I had dimes slipping through my hands / I left these kids behind” (Probably making reference to his time in similarly-styled New Jersey band, Let Me Run) should recall some of Gaslight Anthem’s most anthem worthy numbers paired with the punk infused chords of bands like The Loved Ones or Carpenter. These guys definitely wear their influences on their sleeve, but they do it proudly and effortlessly, which is refreshing to the ears. You can tell that these guys also come well-versed in the genre; boasting members from the previously mentioned Let Me Run and Static Radio NJ (And one dude from The Banner, but his creative contribution is probably all but lost here) these men are not here to fuck around, it’s clear they know what sound they’re after and how to get it. From the melancholy “I Wish I Was A Little More Lou Diamond Phillips” to the closing banger that is “Teddy, My Pal, and His Canal Panama”, Banquets have crafted a diverse, sugary and catchy little 12′inch that should have almost any fan of honest, tight and fun punk rock’n'roll singing along in no time.
Speaking of singing along, lyrically the band jumps along on a similar fair of topics that their contemporaries have: Girls, drinking, being broke, the hard times and getting over them. Sure, it’s not ground breaking as far as lyrical content is concerned but it’s what they know and what they know you know so why not just sing about it? After all, you’re the one that’s going to get it tattoo’d one day because it speaks to you. And that’s the thing, the music here really speaks to you because these guys are dudes just like you and I and they ain’t faking it. From the lyrics to the melodies and drum beats, this is music written by the fans for the fans and it shows. The label’s even put in a ton of effort into this release, putting it out as a one sided 12′inch vinyl with a hand screened design on the B-Side because if you like this kind of music chances are you collect vinyl. I know I do, and a hand screened B-Side sounds rad.
Perhaps Banquets’ triumphs though are also their downfalls. As you’ve probably gathered from the praise of the last paragraph, Banquets doesn’t stray much from the path that’s already well worn by bands before them. They stick to the formula and though the formula’s good it’s still nothing new. You’ve heard this before. Have you heard it better? I think it’s too early in Banquets career to decide but some more experimentation on their part could lead to great results. They’re a competent group of musicians with all the right moves for this kind of music, their talent is very much there and it shows in spades. Now, all they need to do is let go a bit and find their own, unique sound within this rapidly growing scene. Hopefully the future holds something a bit less safe but still as fun. They can do it, I have faith.