After how hard Western Problems hit, it would be hard for Future Virgins to deliver another punch-out of similar quality. Or would it? With a new record, Late Republic on Recess Records, the Chattanooga band has blown my expectations away. The sound this time is a bit cleaner, which lends a pop sensibility to their powerful melodies, but it’s just rough enough to maintain a sturdy DIY vibe that retains its gritty energy. The slightly coarse vocals from Ashley Krey complement the clean hooks and give an emphatic and emotional power. When they add a harmony, as in “Webs,” it doubles the effect. Think fist-in-the-air punk catharsis but delivered through a strong 1960’s-fuelled melody instead: coarse and beautiful, words du jour.
There’s a lot at play on this record, but it’s definite in those melodies, as in “Webs” or “Secret Paintings,” the latter of which is some downright beautiful pop that mixes it up whenever things start to get too catchy. To play off the pop term, another standout is “If You Don’t Cry,” a song whose refrain (“If you don’t cry/ it isn’t love”) is both direct, sappy, and insightful. At the same time, the song jumps tempos just before the chorus, minimizing the predictability that plagues most pop structures. Meanwhile, the steady dose of cymbals keeps that upbeat flavor coming. With complementary guitar solos, breakdowns (is that a 3-second bit of ska in “Secret Paintings”?), and choppy jams the songs never get stale and the variation in melodies from one song to the next are well achieved, even while the pace stays more or less the same throughout. When Krey opens with a bit of a scream on “Breaking Bread,” it fits within the larger tone instead of losing that familiar peppy vibe, then followed by the minimal instrumentation at the start of “Apostle’s Creed” that, again, segues into rough power-pop beauty.
Future Virgins have mastered hyper-garage/garage-punk and it’s nothing but pleasant to put Late Republic on for a spin. It’s a steady stream of bouncy tunes that doesn’t let up. Live, it’s a little more on the blown-out side of things and the melodies don’t come through quite as powerfully, letting the guitar crunch do the talking but on the record, it’s pop-fuelled gritty rock ‘n’ roll.
9.0 / 10
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