Album Review: Ex Friends – “Rules For Making Up Words”

It’s thoughtful, straightforward punk. It’s what you wanted your first band to sound like when you bought that Squier Bass starter pack from Guitar Center, but you didn’t have the strength in your fingers or the strained words on the tip of your tongue. “Rules For Making Up Words” by Ex Friends will get you moving and singing along to choruses you’ve likely just heard for the first time, unless you’d rather stand with crossed arms wondering about the next socially acceptable time to check your cell phone.

“Rules For Making Up Words” opens with the single “Dirty Ben Franklin,” which embodies the feeling of the whole album. Driving drums, catchy bass, full, distorted guitar, tasteful leads sprinkled, and sneering vocals delivering political discontent. It’s a song about the place you live, about knowing it and knowing the worst about it, but it’s still the place you live and you’re going to keep on living there.

“Sympathy for the Sociopath” starts out subdued like “Dirty Ben Franklin,” until the middle of the track where it breaks into a chorus of “cops crack skulls,” which is well suited for a song about class struggle. “Cops crack skulls.” The diction is light but the connotations are heavy, and it feels strange to sing but it’s the most memorable line of the album.

“Fight Like A Girl” takes a break from Joel Tannenbaum on lead vocals, letting Audrey Crash deliver some general criticisms of sexism and how it pervades through, well, everything. And though it isn’t some specific, tangible problem to face, it can be fought. “Fight like a girl.”

“Rainy Season” appears on “Twisted Around,” an EP released by Ex Friends in early 2013. This time it’s better recorded, and though its message of pushing through sadness/depression/whatever funk you get caught up in is always worthwhile, in terms of listening the track isn’t as well matched for the band’s sound in comparison to the others on this album.

The hardest part of writing anything is the ending. Finding a proper conclusion. “Rules For Making Up Words” concludes with “Let’s Get Old,” a track that answers the unanswerable question: If punk is a movement fueled by youth, what happens to punks who are no longer young? You get old. “We’re still here. And we’re okay too. We’re staring down the barrel of the rest of our lives and there’s only one thing to do. Let’s get old.”

4/5 Stars

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