Ryan Howe’s not new to the music world, but his newest endeavor as Punks On Mars is sort of a new creation. Listening to the entirety of Bad Expectations, you’re rushed through a compilation of Howe’s influences, re-imagined and perfected by his gift for pop sensibility. Sure, you can say it’s all over the place, musically, but that makes it one hell of a good listen.
After moving beyond “Overture,” the interlude opener of Bad Expectations you get tossed right into “Chandelier,” which opens with a Ramones-tinted guitar chord. But, Howe comes in with his semi-erratic vocal delivery, and carries on in his own fashion during the chorus, making the song his own, despite obvious nods. The punk theme is definitely present on this record, though it’s not stamped onto every song. It appears on tracks like “Hey! Tiffany” and “Poltergeist,” but you get the feeling that these are just a nice allusion to the heritage in Ryan’s record collection. He even adds his own vision, draping oddball electronic touches in oddball places, leaving a fresh impression on the listener.
For me, the adoration for Punks On Mars comes from the group’s ability to meet in the space left voided by punk rock and glam. My mind recalls the progressive tunes that Television banged out, or maybe even Generation X (Kiss Me Deadly), where guitar playing was heralded and song structure was tightened. If you’re looking for a song that meets my references then just take a listen to the short “Victoria’s World,” using a gleaming guitar and pounding rhythm to clear out the punk rock and replace it with generous elements of pop. However, there’s also lurking places where the early mod stylings of The Jam are apparent. Well, at least that’s what I thought when I first gave a listen to “Showers of Pain;” it’s music sounds propulsive, almost carrying a military sensation within it, but there’s more anthemic moments that seem to push it beyond the boundaries of limitations.
In the end, Bad Expectations succeeds because it’s got doses of everyone’s favorite bands, but these aren’t stale renditions, rather an artist putting his own stamp on the music he enjoys. Many of the songs have electronic elements or keys added in to give a new coat to a sound that seems so familiar. But that’s why I love Punks On Mars. Like Ryan Howe, I’ve got tons of punk rock and glam rock in my collection, but in between there’s other bits of clever pop and more orchestral genres. It seems like this entire effort is a blend of all that, with Howe taking the helm, aiming to freshen up the music of your youth that just might have grown a bit tired. It’s nice to see someone going outside the normal re-hash and creating something I’ll adore for its obviousness, yet still find myself, and my ears, challenged.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Punks_on_Mars_-_Showers_of_Pain.mp3]
Download:Punks On Mars – Showers of Pain [MP3]
Bad Expectations is available now from Zoo Music.