There are a lot of names that could be dropped when talking about Amateur Party—in fact, I did so when I reviewed their EP back in 2009. However, the band really stands as a completely different kind of monster than the members’ other work. As such, I’ll delay the biographies until later. Truncheons in the Manor is their first full length and it doesn’t waste time in setting a tone. With opener “On College Kids and Gang Signs,” they get directly into their somewhat angular guitars that are complemented by pop structures and quick, syncopated vocals and harmonized back-ups. It’s one of the standouts, but it’s not alone either, setting a tone that the rest of the record maintains.
The band owns their sound, something in the realm of jangly postpunk-influenced indie rock, but it does bring to mind a host of others at times, seeping into the rhythm structures, guitars, and vocal nuances. There are hints of Britpop guitars during the cleaner moments, and parts that remind of Ted Leo or The Talking Heads at others, but it all culminates in a unified indie pop with a cynical bite. These artists, of course, are much different than Armalite, Kill the Man Who Questions, or Off Minor, which the band members have also played with. In fact, Armalite is probably the most similar of those artists, but Amateur Party ditches the straight forward pop structures for something more quirky—it always culminates with a dynamic chorus, but the band is spreading their wings and stretching out. The most punk influenced angle they present is in the directness of the lyrics, which always keep social issues within reach without climbing into a pulpit either.
An example of their up-front lyrics comes in “Even Now They Would Move Against Us,” which has a bratty, semi-playful tone to lyrics that I presume are of a political nature—a quick aside/rant on digital files is the lack of a lyric sheet, so take this at a merely interpretive level. The vocals primarily come from Mike McKee, but there’s a male/female tradeoff approach throughout, as in “Shallow.”
Amateur Party has taken their first EP and run with it, solidifying their sound by reducing the punk rock aggression and substituting a jangly, peppiness that shows enough variety throughout the ten songs to keep things positive. The songs are quick bursts, with only two nearing the four minute mark, and they maintain a positive energy, fun energy as reflected in the title track’s closing singalong. It took three years for the band to release a full-length, but I’ll be watching for the next one.
7.5 / 10
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