Album Review: Great Apes – “Great Apes”

Great Apes is a punk band out of San Francisco and features members (and ex-members) of Hanalei, Monster Squad, The Landlords, and Burial Year, among others. The band plays a style of punk rock that’s comparable to gruff pop punk such as Crimpshrine or 90’s post-hardcore like Hot Water Music, with just a hint of Jawbreaker thrown in. Admittedly that’s a bit of a lazy comparison, especially when there are legions of bands that sound like that these days, but just go with it for now.

Last December, Great Apes went into the studio to record some brand new tracks to be split up between various 7-inch records to be released in 2012. The first 7-inch, simply titled Great Apes, went out on Say-10 Records, and contains three tracks. To put it bluntly, these three songs are some of the best nine and a half minutes released so far this year.

Things start off with Sam’s Song. It sounds vaguely reminiscent of Jeff Ott’s catchier songs, but at the same time it has its own feel to it, making any similarities to the Bay Area band more of an homage than a direct rip off. The track is a promising start, showing off the band’s songwriting chops, but things only pick up from here.

It’s A Trans World, the second track, is the highlight of the release. Beginning with a sound bite that sounds like it was ripped directly from a 70’s grindhouse flick, the song quickly transforms into chugging guitars and pounding drums. Lyrically the song tackles the difficulties faced by the Trans community on an everyday basis; standing up against those who feel they have the right to demonize and take away the voices of those who don’t identify with any preconceived notions of gender in our society.

While It’s A Trans World emphasizes the band’s abilities to write some strong lyrics, the final track on Great Apes, Detonator, shows off the band’s ability to write an incredibly catchy hook (assuming that the choruses of the previous two songs weren’t enough). There’s the slightest tinge of Blake Schwarzenbach in lead singer Brian Moss’ vocal performance as he tells the tale of a person who has chosen to settle down in a life of being a shut-in, and wanting to help them break out of their newly adopted shell.

Like J Church, Fifteen, and the Broadways before them, Great Apes have managed to seamlessly blend socio-politically conscious lyrics with a catchy punk melody, wrapping it up in a nice three minute package. While it’s only three songs long, the first in this series of 7-inches goes a long way, and Great Apes have set the bar unfairly high for themselves and the remainder of their upcoming releases. This is definitely a band to watch for in 2012.

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