Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we return our gaze to Suburban Vermin, an indie punk rock outfit hailing from Seattle that’s been together for a decade. The long-standing group is celebrating their tenth year with the release of four EPs that are two songs each, all scattered throughout the year. Here on the Spotlight, we lauded ‘TV Head Nation Issue #0’ as a “powerful, punchy political statement worth listening to.” Hence, let’s continue that exploration with their sophomore entry, ‘ TV Head Nation Issue #1.’
Similar to its predecessor, ‘Issue #1’ has been released with a rather excellent comic book companion piece. It’s a fairly on-the-nose critique of a post-Trump America, in which the lead characters battle back and forth with an army of evil “TV heads.” This, of course, is a shot across the bow at Trump supporters. In one scuffle, one woman is confirmed as a “sexual deviant,” given two options: “mandatory conversion therapy or execution.” (Who would have thought Mike Pence could fit one of those massive televisions on his equally large head?)
‘Die Miss America’ presents Suburban Vermin noticeably more dire-sounding than on their previous release. The first track of ‘Issue #1’ has an incredible sense of urgency. The vicious instrumentation is some of Suburban Vermin’s most intense, and frankly, it’s the “hardest” their flavor of punk has ever sounded. It’s befitting of them, and the increased frustration in the lyricism is worth noting, too. ‘Die Miss America’ is a bit like an angry realization that the Trump presidency isn’t going anywhere, at least, not for four years. “Mom and dad don’t understand, this is getting out of hand,” the band declares.
Similar to ‘Lola’ on ‘Issue 0,’ ‘It’s Over’ is a naval-gazing piece that’s not particularly political, but rather, wrapped in the strife of a relationship’s aftermath. The instrumentation is spectacularly good. The electric guitar riffs Suburban Vermin have written into ‘It’s Over’ are simply fantastic, especially in the longer instrumental interludes between verses. The song suffers, however, from the lead vocalist. The lead singer on ‘It’s Over’ isn’t nearly as strong as the person who fronted the band on the first song, so much so that ‘It’s Over’ becomes an uncomfortable mix to listen to. Even for punk, this vocal performance is very flat.
‘Die Miss America’ is the highlight of the two songs released on this EP. Suburban Vermin are experimenting in compelling fashion in the arena of political protest music. The accompanying comic book is a fantastic addition, too, and I love the band’s idea to start incorporating digital grab bags they call “trading cards.” The vocal performance on ‘It’s Over’ somewhat detracts from a song that could have been much stronger, but it’s a forgivable faux pas in light of how fascinating the story of the ‘TV Head Nation’ series is. The EP is very much worth a listen; it drops on July 29.