Chalk up another one for the misleading band name file—Something Fierce makes me think violent and brutal, which definitely isn’t what this Houston group is after. The walking bassline and jangly guitars of the opening track on Don’t Be So Cruel establish a mood of calculated cool that relies on bounce and rhythm instead of aggression. To borrow from the press sheet, it’s “snappy pop” with an ear for the days when the first wave of punk was branching into art, but before they abandoned the pop-structure and melody.
There’s definitely a British influence to the record, and bands like Gang of Four, The Buzzcocks, and post-‘77 Clash come to mind frequently. The identity is rooted in harmonized pop; big basslines that are emphasized with rhythmic and repetitive guitars; and mild-mannered vocals that keep the primary energy focused on the rhythm. The bass is essential, giving a bounce to the guitar’s rhythms, and the rhythm section of Niki Sevven and Andrew Keith deserves much of the credit. The guitar and vocal style in “Afgani Seeds” sounds straight off Combat Rock and “Future Punks” also ties directly to that time and tone, even with its title. Where Something Fierce succeeds and many of their influences floundered, is in production value. Let’s face it, early ‘80s keyboards sounded terrible—and Something Fierce (fortunately without keyboards) keep their songs at a more traditional pop length instead of delving into the artsy five-minute range that dragged a lot of older songs down. The cleaner vocals give it modern-day indie quirkiness, and the clear bass and production value really emphasizes the dancey, pop angle.
Where the album lacks is its familiarity—it may be twelve original compositions, but the content is a bit too derivative of its influences and comes across as merely enjoyable and upbeat, but somewhat lukewarm. “What We Need Now” and “Bad Choice” get the feet tapping and have some great breakdowns that make them interesting, but when the disc stops spinning, the songs don’t stick. It’s festive and positive, but also somewhat fleeting.
6.7 / 10
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