Every once in an what seems to be an exceedingly-rare while, an album ends up in your inbox and from the very moment you push “play” on the first track, grabs hold of you, forces you to listen, and doesn’t let up until you’ve spent the better part of a thirty-six hour period stuck in a vortex, poring over any and every detail of the album with fine-toothed comb. It’s with that run-on, but I promise you not hyperbolic, sentence that we begin our discussion of The So So Glos latest album, Kamikaze.
We should have seen this coming. The last album released by the Brooklyn (Bay Ridge, to be precise) based four piece, 2013’s Blowout, was regarded by many as one of the best albums of that particular year; solidifying the band’s penchant for fun hooks and earnest lyrics. But Kamikaze…Kamikaze obliterates any of the parameters that might have been keeping The So So Glos tied to any one particular scene or one specific sound. It’s not doubt played out cliche to refer to an album or a song (or anything, really) as ‘next level,’ but it does truly feel like that’s what we’re dealing with here.
Kamikaze-opener “Dancing Industry” a three-minute whirlwind of a song centered around one of the more infectious, uptempo guitar riffs and sing-songy pre-choruses that you’ll hear in modern day punk rock. The chorus finds bassist/frontman Alex Levine insisting that “this ain’t no party that I’m starting/it’s a dancing industry,” and while the entirety of the album begs to be played loud and sounds like a party, you can’t help but think that he’s right. The album’s lead single, “A.D.D. Life,” follows, and sounds exactly like you’d expect a song called “A.D.D. Life” to sound…frantic, catchy, filled with false stops and sudden starts, chaotic lyrics that don’t always seem like they quite fit into standard beats-per-measure formulas. Like the rest of the album, if feels at times like it’s teetering on the edge of falling wildly off the rails, but it repeatedly pulls itself together in fun, energetic and tightly-wound fashion.
The remainder of the appropriately-named Kamikaze never really lets up, though it also never really seems to decide what it wants to be. “Going Out Swinging” and “Inpatient” are more upbeat, lo-fi dance-inducing tracks, albeit without the catchy riff of “Dancing Industry.” “Devils Doing Handstands” is somewhat pop-inspired, but still very much an indie punk track (think Tiny Engines releases). “Magazine” circles around another bombastic opening around a frenetic riff and a gang-chant chorus (though it could stand to be a couple minutes longer). “Sunny Side,” meanwhile, revolves around a descending acoustic chord structure that borders on being haunting at times, particularly when offset by cello and Levine’s borderline falsetto at times, at times giving an “A Day In The Life” feel, admittedly not the only Beatles-inspired moments on the album (see: “Down The Tubes,” and also, you should look up The Beatles, kids…they were a good band). It leads directly into “Kings County II Ballad of a So So Glo,” another anthemic track with a seriously catchy riff and singalong chorus.
At its highest moments (and there really aren’t any lows in this writer’s opinion), Kamikaze is a cathartic album in the truest sense of the word. To paraphrase Ben Nichols singing about Cory Branan, Levine has a way with words that can bring the listener to his or her knees, although the listener is going to dance his or her ass off in the process. Equal parts smart, witty and insightful, Levine seems comfortable processing feelings of chaos and confusion, frustration and apathy on the page; references to racing minds and the medications that control them abound. However, Levine seems to mention the despair without wallowing in it, knowing that at some level, we’re all in it together, so we might as well say “fuck it” and have a good time. By the time album closer “Missionary” and its “nothing’s gonna stand in my way/Nothing’s gonna hold me down” chorus comes along, we seem to reached a point of commitment to move forward, or at least r=to be resigned to the fact that it was all in our heads all along…
In and of itself, Kamikaze doesn’t really sound like anything else, at least not from start to finish. It’s at once an amalgam of a bunch of different influences from a bunch of different decades of music history (some mentioned above, some that you’ll have to hear for yourselves) that somehow comes out of the sausage grinder as something uniquely its own. Equal parts lo-fidelity and great sounding, it could probably be argued, then, that what Kamikaze does sound like is the shape of punk rock to come.
Kamikaze is being released on Votiv on May 20th, and shouldn’t be missed. Get it here.