There are plenty of male/female duos that have gotten by being cute and/or mysterious. The guy and girl in Destroy Nate Allen are not aiming for either: they’re mostly aiming for awesome. As an earnest, self-aware, fun, thrashy, acoustic folk/ska/punk band, they easily achieve it in With Our Powers Combined. If you’re into scream-it-out positiveness, you’re going to eat this up whole.
The duo has more in common with the technicolor hyperactivity that is Math the Band than the grooving pop of Matt and Kim, but fans of the DIY passion and enthusiasm of either band will find themselves loving the all-out attack of “We Talk Occasionally on the Internet” and “Boobie Bar.” The set-up for both songs is pretty simple: fast tempos, emphatic guy/girl vocals with a focus on creation instead of perfection, manic drums and guitars, and an overall feeling of undiluted excitement. This is especially interesting, considering that both tunes are about ostensibly sad things: “We Talk” celebrates a past friendship while lamenting the current distance, and “Boobie Bar” earnestly pleads for people to not go down to the strip club because “if you want a real relationship you won’t get far.”
That’s another thing that separates Destroy Nate Allen from other hyperactive duos: they’re absolutely earnest about everything and honest about their lives. Life is tough, but it can be defused by celebrating through music: “Distracted Nate-O-Bot” is about setting boundaries so that they won’t procrastinate; “Emergency” extols the virtues of spousal communication in handling difficult situations; “Hospital” sings the praises of a titular institution that removed a burst appendix from the female half of the band (as well as Catholic Charities, who paid for the procedure!). This sort of honesty is more often found in somber acoustic singer/songwriter fare, not in organ-driven punk throw-downs. And that’s what makes With Our Powers Combined so awesome: honest and earnest songwriting need not be the province of music that you can’t sing along with and dance to, and Destroy Nate Allen is making sure of that.
Not that they don’t have an acoustic song or two: “I Need to Know” even features a banjo. But it’s their insanely energetic, electric tunes that I remember most, because I love hearing them be real, straightforward, positive and still rocking. On that positive note: There are two really beautiful love songs here (“Chick Flick,” “Almost Out of Texas”). I vastly prefer them to most maudlin sap, because, well, … I’m repeating myself. Suffice it to say that the breathless enthusiasm of this review mirrors that of Destroy Nate Allen’s, and that you should go listen to their album immediately. It’s so, so good.