Album Review: Gnarboots – “A.L.B.U.M.”

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Gnarboots, San Jose’s premiere purveyors of shucking all convention, has always been weird. Featuring Bob Vielma of Shinobu, punk journalist Aaron Carnes, and locally renowned illustrator Adam Davis, Gnarboots consistently pushes the boundaries of how weird you can be and still be awesome, and A.L.B.U.M. is no exception.

The first time I saw them was at The Mutiny, a tiny bar in a shithole called Antioch, north-east of San Francisco. They played one or two pop-punky songs, then plugged in an iPod and turned the bar into a pounding and mildly disturbing dance party. Even before that, which was some time in 2011, Gnarboots has had a long history of doing strange things during strange shows played in strange places. They even had a R.I.P.I.P.O.D. tour after their iPod was stolen in 2012.

When I picked up the LP the next time I saw them, I had absolutely no idea what the fuck to expect. What happened was a pretty decent burst of raw energy, suburban ennui, and flat-out absurdism, with themes and sounds coming from all over the place. The first track, “Brother”, opens with artistically half-assed yells and sustains itself with a simple “bah bah bah bah bah” chorus, then slams without skipping a beat into “Martian Chronicles”, a contrasting and straightforward pop-punk piece.

Next up is one of my favorite tracks, “Grown-Ass Man”, which is bouncy and catchy as hell. I’d tell you what the song is about, but A.L.B.U.M. has no lyrics sheet, and the only images to be found besides the cover is the record itself, which has a picture of a friend of the band on one side and a drawing of a amputated foot on the other.

The old school hardcore track “Tinnitus”, which is about rocking out too hard and not being able to get the ringing in your ears to stop. I think we’ve all been there. Track five, “Indian Summer”, is both the longest song on the album and is also the only bastion of seriousness to be found on the first half of the record.

Flipping the vinyl over, all seriousness is squelched, and “Party” brings back the raw vocals found on “Brother”. Side two closes with the Gnarboots anthem “We Are All Gnarboots”, reminding us that you, me, and everyone are all Gnarboots. Makes me want to start waving my lighter back and forth every time I hear it.

Side two only has one track longer than two minutes, and you can almost feel a need for speed attitude in Gnarboot’s performance, almost as if Mike Park kept calling and asking if they were done yet.

There’s not really a disappointing track on A.L.B.U.M., and all of them provoke praise, if not simply for the vast quantity of shits not given. Clocking in at just about 20 minutes, Gnarboots’ first full-length studio album could only be considered a waste of time by the most high-nosed and elitist punk rock snobs.

They’re not touring since Adam went and had a second kid, but their website has lots of free and pay-whatever content. But if you don’t feel like doing that, you can always just watch Cats In Pajamas. Cats In Pajamas is unfortunately not on A.L.B.U.M., but it’s hardly worth overlooking either.

Did I mention San Jose nerdcore rapper Boboso is in Gnarboots? Well he is. His goings-on can be found here.


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