Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Eight-minute releases: Awkward Age / Hectorina

August 22, 2012

Awkward Age‘s self-titled 7″ is four tunes of straightforward three-man pop-punk. It takes less than eight minutes of your time, because Vic Alvarez and co. don’t mess around. They throw down hooky guitar riffs, wicked bass lines, rapid-fire drumming and melodic vocals. But it’s not all chord-mashing; they find the time to kick in an unexpected breakdown during “In Montreal,” and there’s a tiny guitar solo in “You Can’t Deny This,” and … okay, the rest is chord mashing. And it’s great, because they know that you don’t have to pad the run-time to improve the quality. If you love pop-punk without girlishly high vocals, try out Awkward Age.

From Dick Dale and “Wipeout” to the Pixies and the San Francisco garage-rock explosion of late, surf-rock has been the ground zero of some wild, wild music in many eras. Charlotte’s Hectorina continues the tradition, mixing surf, prog, punk and garage rock into a zany amalgam. The band’s Hey Hey Safety Man EP crams all of that into three slices that (also) clock at just under eight minutes.

In that span, they find time for three drum solos (one in “Beware of the Red Ape,” two in “K-Town Makes a Comeback”), frantic howling (“Beware”), a straight-forward rock bit (the opening of “Dirty Carl’s Majestic Barba”), and noodly experimental guitar bits (everywhere). By the time you wrap your head around everything that’s happening, it’s over. They say they’re writing a “double-album rock opera entitled Collywobble sometime later this summer.” I can’t even imagine what they’ll come up with to fill a canvas that large, but after this EP, I’m willing to stick around and see. If you’re up for something different, give this one a shot.

Awkward Age throws down 8 minutes of no-frills punk glory

November 20, 2011

Awkward Age‘s Demo 2011 is four punk tunes in 8 minutes and 1 second. The band isn’t into economy because it doesn’t know what it’s doing: the three-piece features ex-members of The Knockdown, New Bruises, Ghost Tales and Independent Clauses (yes, an old writer for this magazine!). These vets cram the material that would compose a whole three- or four-minute song in younger hands into two. The result is an EP that rules.

I’ve been a sucker for a drum intro ever since I heard Dave Douglas hammering away on Relient K’s “Kick-Off,” which opened The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek—the first rock album I ever heard. It is unsurprising that I fell in love with the pounding bass/tom/snare intro to “New Teen Fiction.” The rest of the song sets the template for the other tunes: block-chord guitars, uncomplicated bass lines, forceful yet hooky melodies and an irrepressible energy.

“Lucky Man” is a perfect eff you song (literally), and I can only imagine how much fun it is for audiences to yell it out live. “It Never Stops” sounds most like a snare-kick pop-punk song, and that’s totally fine. These guys are self-admittedly about ten years past high school, so this is the sound they were hearing when they were hanging out in the halls. It sounds authentic.

It’s only eight minutes, but it’s a great eight minutes. If you’re into punk, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be all over Demo 2011.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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