Needles//Pins are something different in the punk rock realm. Well, that’s not true. They’re entirely familiar and warm, yet they have that pizzazz—that’s what the kids are calling it these days, if you didn’t know. They play familiar-ish DIY punk with some pop sensibility, but there’s a little more attitude, a touch of that first person rock star swagger that makes their songs bratty and finger-wagging instead of egalitarian and or introspective. It’s a style that’s easily abused but, when done right, gives a welcome levity and sense of fun. It’s on Shamebirds in abundance, exemplified in “Losing Your Mind” with that classic ballsy rock strut to start it off and then cutting through Adam Solomonian’s delivery all the way through. The band is most successful when they take that showmanship and narcissism and combine it with a roughshod punk structure, as in “Far Better Off” or “I’m a Drag,” with its lyrics of “I’m going to die where I want to anyway.” The tone reminds me of the limited solo work I’ve heard from JJ Nobody. Even in “Hate When You’re Leaving,” which displays vulnerability, there’s that hip-shaking backbone.
The more repetition in the songs, the less effectively it works. With fewer singalong choruses, there is extra emphasis on Solomonian’s delivery. “Only Call Me When You’re Drunk” is an example, with the not so interesting subject matter of its title, where the repetition drives it into the ground and makes it feel much longer than the 3:01 it clocks in at (and, yes, this is the second longest song on Shamebirds). The songs that temper that swagger also stand out, with “Hitting Bottom” and “Polaroid” showing a bit more vulnerability that rounds out the band’s overall scope in addition to the earlier mentioned “Hate When You’re Leaving.”
As a whole the positives overshadow the negatives and—what with digital music and the skip function, the downers are easily dismissed. It’s not a great reflection of a record to say there’s a stinker on there, but pobody’s nerfect, and it really doesn’t undercut the overall feel and enjoyment of the record by much. It peaks at both start and finish, with some lacking pieces in the middle.