I make no secret out of the punk I like. Over time, I’ve stripped off layers and layers of affectation, only to fully embrace my own inner-orgcore. I don’t pretend to like Black Flag, I don’t get misty-eyed over the Clash. For me, punk rock is at its finest when it’s melodic, vulnerable, and DIY. It’s just the way I’m wired, poserdom be damned. But even in this corner we’ve collectively started calling melodic punk—my corner—there’s still the same amount of repetition and triteness you’d find anywhere else. That’s how genres work, there’s a narrow field of tropes to play with and some stick to the tried and true and some steal apples from neighboring farms. Portland’s Throw is one of the latter with an armful of apples, and trite they are not. They play with stunning openness, humor, and heart—and they do so very, very fast.
I’m Very Upset is their latest album, a follow up to last year’s Real, Real Nice (which showed up on my best of the year list), and on it they continue refining their unique brand of punk rock: combining emo, indie, and the athletic strumming of Epi-Fat skate punk into a scrappy and inherently youthful vision that feels a lot more like what the genre should sound like in 2018 than anything else I’ve heard. Which is to say: it is both true to the genre’s original vision and true to what it has become in the present day.
“Atlas; Bummed” opens the album with trebly crunching guitars and whiplash speed, taking a breather for a bridge, but otherwise, spending its minute and forty-five seconds at full sprint. The crux of Throw is presented here in all its glory, through double-time strumming and bummed out lyrics. The first sung line of I’m Very Upset is fitting: “Feels like the weight of the world is crashing down all around me.” It’s this combination of lyrical openess and garage-borne speed that makes me liken them to a gag reflex—quick, involuntary, and natural—a response to stimuli that manifests in an instant. Throw isn’t just writing songs, they’re throwing them up.
I’m Very Upset is filled with a lot of great songwriting though, and it’s not all emotional histrionics. “Drinking Wine With My Dad” is a great song that paints a portrait of a moment in a charmingly direct way. It’s this kind of snapshot songwriting that aligns Throw with the Menzingers and Restorations of the punk world, even if their actual approach to the music is a lot more classically punk. “Trees” supports the argument that Throw has their hands in a lot of old school punk as well. If you know the words to Descendent’s “All,” you can probably figure out “Trees” as well.
The second half of the record contains its best hooks. The 50s style ‘ooos’ of “Steamroller” juxtapose against heavy power chord riffs, resulting in a dynamic, venomous listen. “Pass the Prozac” has the best opening line on the record, coupled with galloping chords. “Well I’ve heard this one before, you really fucked up, apologize,” leads the charge into one of Throw’s most fully realized song—complete with rockin’ solo. But it’s “Spaceship,” that might just be the best on the album. It sounds like Suffer-era Bad Religion (name-checked in the lyrics, of course) but it’s also funny, pointed, and catchy as all hell. When I’m Very Upset finishes, I’m left with one line repeating in my head, over and over again, the chorus to end all choruses: “Elon Musk privatized my spaceship!”
I’m Very Upset is an evolution as much as it is an antidote. It encompasses the post-Against Me! era of punk rock in its entirety. Within this collection of songs it chronicles the rise of Red Scare, the combined influence of Hot Water Music, the Flatliners, the Menzingers, and Nothington—all the while sounding nothing like any of them. They’ve taken the quirky, cracked-iPhone, late-texting, memeing nervous energy of emo-pop darlings Modern Baseball without dipping more than a toe in their waters. Throw is an amalgam of all the ideas of what punk can be now, while taking notes from the genres foundation. I’m Very Upset is like a stretched rubber band, and here, we’re hearing it snap back to form—settling somewhere between loud-and-fast and sad-as-fuck.