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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on The Couch Bombs, an erratic punk rock outfit hailing from my hometown, Denver, Colorado. Their latest studio endeavor is ‘Growing Pains,’ a hard hitting, bombastic excursion through classic punk rock stylings. Clocking in at ten tracks, it’s a lengthy studio effort. It is, however, aptly short and wonderfully punchy. (That’s what punk should be, right?) Let’s dig right into it.
It surprises me that The Couch Bombs emerged out of the ashes of a ska band. They’re pretty damn sharp punk rockers; ska tends to be much more reserved, or at least, not near as intense. The group navigates punk remarkably well, though, slamming themselves into oblivion with harsh bar chord structures and quirky harmonies. It’s definitely aggressive punk rock, but it isn’t over the top or pretentiously angsty. ‘I’m On Fire,’ the opening track, exhibits this well, offering a short, fierce descent into punk musings straight out of 1978. I’d argue the lead guitar chops are much more fleshed out that typical punk rock, too. That’s refreshing; there is a musical prowess behind the noise.
‘Growing Pains’ starts to hit its stride on the second track, ‘The Art of Giving Up.’ I love the comradery in the room as the band harmonizes with the lead vocals. At times, the sound feels a bit like it was captured with a handful of room mics. It has an inherently garagey nature, which is, of course, entirely natural for punk. Some tracks, however, offer both instrumental performances and production techniques that are vastly sharper and more organized than other tracks. The brief ‘Detained’ may be the best example of this; the guitar banter is superbly executed and recorded.
‘’Merica’ and ‘Drank do fine jobs of showcasing some of The Couch Bomb’s oddball lyricism. I do think the lead vocals are undermixed, though, making some of those quips hard to interpret on your first few run-throughs of the record. There’s something so infectiously catchy about ‘Drank,’ which makes me absolutely adore its carefree style. ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ is just as lovable, too. In fact, the latter track does a nice job showing off the outfit’s musical chemistry. That tight percussion is right on beat with the rest of the instrumentation.
Ah ha! There’s a tiny bit of that ska band. ‘Growing Pains,’ the titular track, is arguably the finest track on the album. It’s lyricism is so wonderfully punky, the vocal mix is much stronger, and that ska-esque riff is absolutely fantastic. It’s worth noting at this point that The Couch Bombs did a nice of making this album consistently interesting - that’s admirable in itself. Punk efforts often fall victim to monotony, and you have to admit, punk can be less versatile than other genres. ‘Growing Pains’ is an excellent example of a punk album that’s coherent and cohesive.
‘Scapegoat’ is a nice track as well, but it does reside in the shadow of the epically good title track. ‘Shit,’ while comical, does fall short when measured against the quality of the rest of the tunes on the album. ‘Starts to Catch Up,’ however, is absolutely stellar, offering up the second best jam on the record. The finale of the album culminates everything I dig about The Couch Bombs into one concrete, snappy effort.
‘Growing Pains’ is an immensely good punk rock record. There isn’t a lot of quality punk rock in the indie scene right now, so it’s a welcome addition to the community. I think the album could have been even stronger omitting ‘Scapegoat’ and ‘Shit,’ but nevertheless, it is a fine offering of tracks. You can catch the band live in February and Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que if you’re local in Denver. For once here on the Spotlight, I’m very familiar with a band’s stomping ground - Check them out at Moe’s. It’ll be a great show.