If there’s one thing I’ve been able to count on for some time, it’s been the delivery of solid punk rock records from Dirtnap Records. They’re at it again in 2013 with their first release, Screens by Low Culture. Hailing from New Mexico, the band pumps out a grittier version of your modern power-pop, using furious pacing and jagged guitar chords to add an extra dose of energy.
“Screens” kicks off the entire affair, almost blasting off immediately with a punk rock anthem that blurs the lines between traditional punk rock and modern garage-pop. A quickened beat, encouraged by the pounding rhythm of the drums, makes this one of the albums stand-out tracks. Seamlessly, Screens moves along into “I Feel Your Ghost.” It’s here that you first begin to notice a little bit more of a guttural influence on the vocals; this is one of the minor effects that carries the group away from the majority of their peers, at least in sonic comparisons.
While a great deal of Low Culture‘s latest effort has a tendency to stand in the territory of their punk/power-pop fusion, there are a few songs lurking here and there that allow listeners to absorb something a touch different. For me, you can tell by the opening guitar line of “Touchy Feely” that you’re in for something that varies from the group’s standard fare. It jumps into a forceful vocal delivery, almost barked in your ear, though they do create a bit more classic alternative melody that enters towards the latter half of the song. A few songs later you find yourself at “Nightmare,” providing that pummeling sound that one can only assume entices those in a live setting to circle about. While I appreciate the variation in songwriting, these two examples are also probably the hardest for my ears to connect with during an average listening experience.
My favorite piece of Screens has to be “Trying to Quit.” It’s sort of a sloppy garage ditty, which has me bobbing my head and tapping my toes as I write these very words. It also features a softer vocal, though you can still hear a hint of strain; its presence makes the song immediately accessible and memorable, regardless of your personal tastes. The group comes close to repeating this feat on the following track, “California,” although it takes a second or two longer to fully grasp the apparent pop sensibility in the songwriting. Like the opening two tracks, this is a good 1-2 punch.
For my two cents, I’ve had a blast listening to Screens, blaring it on the home stereo time and time again. Sure, there are some weaker spots, but even those I don’t mind playing all the way through. While Low Culture waivers slightly in monotony, the record’s brevity allows them to avoid such traps, leaving music fans with an album you’ll spin on the table repetitively.
Download:Low Culture – Screens [MP3]