Spooky Freaky is a good debut from an intriguing new-ish band from Texas. Even if the EP name makes me think of “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” each time I read it.
The band is similar in sound to a lot of bands I enjoy: Tiltwheel and Leatherface, for example — which is why it bugs me a little to say that one of the weaknesses on the album is the vocals. It’s not like those bands are exactly professional singers with a wide range either. That’s not really a thing with this style of heart-on-sleeve melodic punk. It’s just that the vocals at times feel a little flat, lacking that hard to pinpoint extra kick of emotion where it’s needed.
Normally I start with the good, not the bad though. Closing song “Silver Heart” shows what the band is capable of. They also use some limited harmonies that layer nicely and compensate for the vocal deficiency I just mentioned. And it’s not that the other songs are bad by a long shot. It’s more that I think they could be even better. The songwriting is tight, balancing emotion, actual non-chord guitar and gruff, rough-around-the-edges basement punk. They pull all the different angles together in this one with a 3:14 slice of emotional punk to toast a Pabst to.
Guitar drives the four songs here, often going beyond the expected power chords and taking the songs in unexpected directions that gives extra heart without any bloat, which is why I namedropped Tiltwheel and Leatherface earlier, though it carries a little more urgency than introspection -- with a few shouts and fist pumps along the way. Opening cut “Another Episode” carries a forward-pushing, relentless momentum that sounds almost a smidge too fast, with group harmonies pulling the reigns back before the wheels come off. I hear shades of Dillinger Four in the guitar of “Is It Noticeable?” but the vocal delivery is more akin to The Thumbs. The breakdown at the end of “Sea Sick” shows off some hardcore influence and a bit of throat-shredding shouts, then the last song, “Silver Heart,” kind of brings it all together.
I like what I hear, though the production is a little muddied between the instrumentation. It has that first album feel where the band hasn’t quite solidified its approach yet and I’m curious where Kira Jari is headed.