What-A-Nights are a Japanese four-piece punk group, mostly falling on the pop-punk side of the spectrum, with some tight Buzzcocks sensibility seeping in. Their self-titled full-length, first self-released in Japan and now brought to the larger masses by Drunk Sailor Records, brings ten songs of soaring melody, hooky guitar, and positive vibes.
The songs, while labeled as pop-punk, utilize the guitar far more than vocals in achieving their hooks all the way down to the melodies. Vocalist Spalding has a roughshod voice with limited range. He does what’s required for the songs, but never stretches a note or creates his own melodies. Instead, it’s the guitar work that both he and Masahide exhibit that pulls the songs and helps them grow. For example, in “Nothing Funny, Nothing Serious,” there is an epic, building feeling that hits home, yet this comes without any flourishes on the vocals, instead through the two guitar attach and steady drumming. It’s got the singalong aspect down, but it doesn’t cheapen the songs with a gang vocal or whoa-oh, it just says its piece and keeps on pummeling. The beauty of the songs comes in their clean crafting and execution, not as much from the raw side of the spectrum.
When the band does try to stretch out their style, as in “Da-a-a-ance,” the results are mixed. It accentuates Spalding’s limited range and it generally falls flat—which is too bad, as the record gets a bit samey over the ten songs. They speed it up in “TV Girl” and it has something of a ‘90s Brit-punk feel I can’t quite place. At just ten cuts in less than a half-hour it’s not an issue but, if the band tries a longer project, it definitely feels that the tone could grow weary and lessen the music’s punch. Regardless of limitations, What-A-Nights are a pleasant find. The record is a recommended purchase for those who like crisp pop-punk with an ear for melody above all else. Check out “You Need Me,” “Nothing Funny, Nothing Serious,” or “Farewell Kiss” to hear them at their best.