Man, what a nice looking record. The sleeve includes an actual photograph for the cover, with a dozen or so variations that you can get, and the liner notes come as a stapled booklet with information on a Pennsylvania law regarding when gas companies can turn off the heat. It’s a solid mix of handmade art and political statement. Add to that a download code that includes all of the alternate cover photos (some of which include recognizable faces) and it’s a release that gives off a warm feeling, even if the running theme is about the cold. Of course, all the packaging is moot if the record’s not any good.
Amateur Party, from Philly, is mostly a three-piece (with occasional extra members). The cast is familiar, with Mike McKee (Kill the Man Who Questions, Armalite), Scott Mercer, and Jeff Ziga filling out the lineup. The most direct RIYL is probably Armalite, as at times McKee’s slightly nasal shouts sound a bit like Adam Goren - though maybe that’s just what comes to mind due to the Armalite association. Musically, it’s a mix of quirky, DC-sounding guitars with fast, shouted vocals over the top. Another comparison might be the three-piece pop punk of a band like The Thumbs but with less of a genre-specific feel. But whoever I compare it with, it’s a quality sound on Public Utility Complaint that’s neither preachy nor copycat. The only real fault with the record is that there’s little variation in sound, which might be unappealing if it were a longer release.
The title-track kicks the record off with jangly guitars and a quirky, indie-rock delivery before the backup vocals start and McKee builds up energy. The track is only two and a half minutes long, and utilizes the succinct structure to its benefit. Still, it’s my least favorite of the four. The shorter “American Youth Report 2008” follows, with driving drums and McKee screaming full on for the quick song that finishes Side A on an energetic note, leading into the next side. “Gun Fever” starts with similar guitars as “Public Utility Complaint,” and the band’s signature sound is pretty clear: bouncy drums, jangly guitars, and paced, semi-melodic screaming from McKee. The backing vocals and steadily increasing pace of the chorus in “Gun Fever” is fun and stands out as the most memorable track for me that has almost a poppy Plan-It-X feel.
Despite the blatant political message in the packaging, the band doesn’t sound preachy, instead offering an approach that more thoughtful than slogany.
7.0 / 10
Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:
Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.