In just a few short years, San Francisco’s Great Apes has evolved from being what could have been your standard run-of-the-mill punk band into something much more conceptual. The band’s 2013 full length, Thread, was made up entirely of songs based around conversations and interviews with friends of the band, resulting in ten tracks with ten very different personalities. Great Apes’ newest EP, Playland at the Beach, scales back on that diversity of songwriting influences, but it still keeps the band’s explorative nature alive and well.
With Playland at the Beach, Great Apes aim to capture the city of San Francisco at varying points through its history and set it to music. Each track (and even the EP itself) is named after the landmark that inspired it and the lyrics are full of references to the city, from the modern gentrification of city districts, to the Gold Rush that brought people to the West Coast in the first place. There are so many references to the city that it might sound almost as if the EP isolates listeners who haven’t ever lived in San Francisco. Thematically, that’s probably true- there’s some research to be done in order to get a full understanding of the specifics.
From a musical standpoint, however, Playland at the Beach is a much more inviting listen. The compositions are still made up of powerfully chugged power chords and pounding drums, fitting in comfortably with the rest of the band’s output. Even the lyrics, when they aren’t touching upon specific locations, have a universal appeal to them. You don’t necessarily have to have a working knowledge of the precise location where Harvey Milk was murdered to understand the powerful message behind lines like “let the bullet shatter every closet door”. Similarly, you don’t have to be intimately familiar with San Francisco’s Mission district to be familiar with the problems faced by minority communities when their neighborhood becomes the next hot commodity for fresh college graduates.
Playland at the Beach may be rooted deep in San Francisco, but that doesn’t stop it from being any less enjoyable for those who live and grew up elsewhere. It’s a welcome addition to Great Apes’ already steady discography, and lives up to the conceptual bar that they’ve set for themselves.
4 / 5 – Stream it below.
RIYL: Hard Girls, Ma Jolie, Civil War Rust