The best parties are always the ones with a hint of drama amidst the chaos, where the keg doubles as a staircase toboggan, the bathroom reeks of makeouts, and everything goes so late that the band’s last encore is a prelude to the endless search for the cheapest brunch. The same goes for punk rock albums. Scratchy and obtuse, loud and smart, these three-chord gems are those that go down smooth like a Solo cup full of odious booze precariously balanced next to your parents’ white leather couch.
And from the first chords of Throat Punch, the latest album from Saskatoon four-piece BellaDonnas and the Temps, we are ushered into that hazy world of momentary anarchy that it as sweet as it is scuzzy. Musically, the group pushes a familiar formula of grungy guitars to their own punk rock party, a living room full of chaos that blends blasts of angst, a vague sense of loathing and razorblade balladry.
There’s even moments of hip shake swagger, with the drumming occasionally pushing above and beyond the album’s mid-paced stomp. However, it’s the vocals that manage to steal the show on several occasions. On the title track, lead singer Zelda BellaDonna delivers a series of powerful diatribes, with her impassioned vocals perfectly bolstered by her bandmates throughout a seriously catchy chorus.
Unfortunately, the best parties are those with an exit strategy – how else would you ever appreciate the tangle of headaches and carpet splotches? Earlier this month, BellaDonnas and the Temps announced their final show. Thankfully, they left behind their own perfect mess before ghosting out of their own gathering.
OWNERS – DEMO/ON/THE/FLOOR
“Nothing is worth paying for anyway.” With this rallying cry, Saskatoon alt-weirdo four-piece OWNERS deliver an EP that aspires to scratch the surfaces of grisly, caustic punk in order to reveal the bittersweetness beneath. Billed as a demo, the three-song release is raw to the max, with an implied sugar-stutter despite lyrics that reach fever pitch-cum-mantra throughout. Yet given the depth of the guitar tones that bleed distortion and vocals that remain noticeably tense and restrained from release, OWNERS manage to deliver a pill of sunshine pop that is equal parts bitter provocation and pretty disorientation.
Touchbase – “The Woods”
A surprisingly mature sound for a first release, Touchbase, an indie rock four-piece based out of Prince Albert, deliver a debut single reminiscent of the-still deliciously paranoid death disco sounds of the early 2000s. Marrying dark synth sounds and the rumbling hum of intense, android-like percussion and coy guitar lines, Touchbase manage to balance between thumping electro noir and the shimmy of slick rock strut that most bands take years to achieve.
Rehashed – “1000 Ways to Die”
Amidst fist-pumping breakdowns and complex, fractured-sounding songwriting emerges the triumphant return of Rehashed, a Saskatoon thrash band with a catalogue that stretches out for nearly a decade. And on their violence-obsessed single “1000 Ways to Die”, the group focuses on uncompromising sardonic howls and dizzying double-timed drumming. Amidst flashes of manic fretwork energy, this track is a brief-albeit-brilliant glimpse into the band’s upcoming full-length, Government Cheese.
Brodie Moniker – Nowhere Left to Ghost
From Nowhere Left to Ghost comes Brodie Moniker’s first single “Push Play DJ”. Driven by boogie-blues riffing and vocals that dip liberally into alt-country Americana, the song manages to keep a relatively straight pace, at least in comparison to the remainder of the album. While there’s something to be said about putting your best foot forward (or something), the stompy swamp rock sounds aren’t nearly as impressive as the remainder of the album. Streaming in entirety on his website, Moniker’s strength as a songwriter comes from his unwillingness to steer his ship in a single direction. Wearing several influences on his sleeve all at once – including those of his other projects including Fancy Diamonds and Pandacorn – the rest of the album balances nicely between space rock, ambience, and oddball instrumentalism. While his guitar slinging certainly comes crashing with the weight of a pirate ship’s cannon, it’s when Moniker is at his most tender that the nuances truly soar.
Arson Cult – s/t
Menacing and monolithic, Arson Cult are the latest group to brandish curmudgeon-sludge like a warhammer. Emitting low end quakes to balance out the guitar skronk, on their self-titled two-song EP, the still-relatively-new group barrels through a cataclysm of trundling riffs and hoarse vocals that come across as pulling toenails-as-cathartics. But while both songs stand easily on their own, the shortness of Arson Cult’s EP does leave a listener wondering what’s going to happen next – like the foreshadowing horror movie shadows lurking just around the corner, there’s more undoubtedly more bellow and doom to come.