Spokane, WA was a wasteland of snow and ice and it was coming down like it wasn’t in a hurry to stop. We all lived about two hours away and were lured by Red City Radio, Direct Hit!, and Elway to make the drive, because when you live in a small Idahoan college town, big names are rarely such a short drive away. There was no way around it, weather be damned, we had to go. This was my first encounter with Oh Snap!
Vocalist Steven Cebulski was drunk before he hit the stage. I met him at the merch table and we talked punk rock, the local scene, and the shit you have to go through to set up local shows. He stuffed my pockets with stickers and a comp and soon enough I was watching them from the pit, amidst a pitifully small audience. They chugged chords and shout-sung melodies I could barely detect over the the pounding drums, but I danced and had a great time anyways. As the band made cracks about how much they sucked and their wanton drunkenness, I found myself thinking: this is one of the best openers I’ve ever seen. They disarmed the audience with their self-deprecation, approachability, and willingness to have fun. They were there for the same reason everyone else was, and from their onstage demeanor and sloppy enthusiasm you knew they’d be beside you in the pit before the night ended.
Ten Years Too Late is Oh Snap!’s first EP, and on it they show a penchant for tight, melodic songwriting that even now seems like a far cry from the delightfully amateurish band I saw that winter. Outside the bar setting, Oh Snap! comes off as a band of early Blink-182 acolytes absorbing influences from modern pop punk groups like Dear Landlord and the Copyrights. “Swamp Ass” opens the EP and provides a pretty solid blueprint of their sound– big guitar melodies space out catchy verses and choruses of bitter longing. There’s an interesting sense of opposing forces working on this EP; the lyrical content is so earnest and heart wrenching but is always balanced by a sophomoric title. Oh Snap! is kind of like the friend who gets too drunk and spills his guts about everything, feels a little weird, and then makes a dick joke.
“I Should Have Been A Stain On The Floor” is one of the standout songs on Ten Years Too Late and perhaps represents the album’s perspective the best. It’s about being punk and growing up and having to deal with the adult responsibilities therein. It is also one of the most structurally diverse songs on the EP, taking a chance and changing gears into an instrumental section with a disco beat. I’d have liked to see more of that in Oh Snap!’s songs, as sometimes they seem to get a little too comfortable with their riff-verse-chorus formula.
Ten Years Too Late is a very good and sometimes great EP from a city with no scene, but it has its flaws. The aforementioned repeated arrangements, the production (Remember when small punk bands sounded grainy and nasty? The flatness and clarity of modern recording is robbing our next generation of bands of a hissing safety net), and the vocal performance on “Piper” (where Cebulski sounds strained and off key, but not in a cool punk way) are all elements that keep the album from being perfect. But even with all of that, Ten Years Too Late leaves a sweet taste in my mouth with its final track, “Leahtard.”
“Leahtard” is catchy-as-fuck lightning in a beer bottle. It’s punk rock romance that isn’t cloying, but captures your heart all the same. Maybe I’m a little biased here and I’m seeing it through rose-colored-lenses, but the fact that a song this good was born out of Spokane, WA gives me a huge sense of pride.
I’m pretty lenient with the amateur nature of Ten Years Too Late. Oh Snap! may only know one song structure and not have the time and money to pump into quality production, but this band knows how to write a song that makes me feel. Their sugary melodies and lyrical content rise above their faults and put forth something pure and honest. Punk is hard work, and when we’re talking about the scene, and more importantly keeping it alive, this is what we’re talking about. Bands that play for fun and a love of music. Punk rock’s objective is to take the power of rock ‘n roll and put into the hands of anyone who wants it. They play because there’s beer to drink and things to say. These tiny bands from your local scenes are the unsung heroes of punk rock, they’re the ones making good on the dream. Oh Snap! proves that so long as you’re doing what you love, ten years too late is better than never.
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