Summer still has a few weeks remaining, so there is plenty of time for you to enjoy the debut album from White Reaper in its proper setting. White Reaper Does It Again is energetic, carefree garage rock delivered at a breakneck pace, which makes it perfect for blasting at full volume with the windows rolled down/pulled up/smashed open. The music is unlikely to leave any lasting impact on the listener, but sometimes life is about the journey and not the destination, ya know, and why not make that journey as packed with adrenaline as possible?
White Reaper offers a simpler and more streamlined version of the garage rock that is currently enjoying its moment once again. The guitars pound out simple riffs and chord changes, taking a backseat to the thunderous drums of Nick Wilkerson on most tracks who pushes the tempo and thrills with rollicking fills. Tony Esposito’s vocals are processed to hell and back in a way that recalls Jay Reatard, and his melodies are often similarly pop-influenced. White Reaper distinguish themselves from their brethren with the often over-the-top use of keyboards, but Ryan Hater’s contributions help add some much needed color to a formula that has the danger of otherwise feeling flat.
White Reaper Does It Again is an album whose sole focus is making sure the listener is having as much fun as can be packed into a half hour. There is a disposable nature to the music, but even if its significance is merely ephemeral, there is still something to be said for enjoying the moment. Just crank it up, bop your head, and revel in the folly/glory of youth.
We are seemingly living in a boom period for garage rock. Perhaps this is merely a result of musicians branching off from the general 90’s indie rock revival,* as part of the general tendency of artists to look to the recent past for inspiration. At the same time, bands are opting for a more stripped-down take on the “punk” music that dominated rock radio at the time, while at the same time . Questions of origin aside, one finds that the bills at local shows are being filled out more and more by garage rock bands, and now with this wave we are seeing their records getting wider release. The recent debut album from Bully is one of the most promising examples of this trend, as Feels Like is an exhilarating burst of adrenaline that stands out as one of the most exciting records of the summer.
Feels Like comes fast and furious at ten tracks in half an hour, with most songs hitting you in the gut immediately and then not making sure to overstay their welcome. The drums pop and the guitars cut through with an almost-too-perfect amount of distortion, though the most distinctive element is easily Alicia Bognanno’s infectious yell, a perfect mixture of anger and vulnerability. Listen to the pain and anguish of her vocals as Bognanno tears into opener “I Remember” as the band chugs along with barely-contained fury, setting the stage perfectly for the rest of the album.
Some critics and listeners may feel that the music on Feels Like is too derivative of their alternative idols, and it cannot be argued that Bully is trying to reinvent the wheel here. However, there are enough hooks that are plowed through with the right amount of energy that should downplay the concerns of everyone but only the most steadfast detractors. Even on post-grunge-by-numbers tracks like “Trying” the band displays a knack for hooks that is hard to resist.
Bully may not be a revolutionary act, but with Feels Like they have created one of the most infectious albums of the summer, proving sometimes it is best to listen to your gut instead of your mind. There is no need to overanalyze the music–just strap yourself in and enjoy this blast of invigorating punk rock.
*See: Parquet Courts, Waxahatchee, Yuck, Speedy Ortiz, etc.