3 out of 5
Label: Fever Rash Music
Produced by: Cameron Nicklaus
A mostly grabbing blast of post-punky energy, Constant Lovers nibbles at a few “sounds like” variants – Call Me Lightning’s syncopated rock and roll; Murder City Devils’ harsh-edged, brawly attack – but emerges, thanks to Joel Cupin’s constantly energized vocals and a strong rhythm section of Gavin Tull-Esterbrook (bass), Eric Fisher (guitar), and Ben Verellen (drums), as their own entity, carving out a defined sound across Pangs’ 11 tracks. That definition seemingly takes a lot of effort, though, as after a 5-song blast of hits, the album loses some ground, still propulsively performed, but a little more generic.
And no, it ain’t just the lack of horn: The Wound Up Get Me Down admittedly starts things out on a particularly awesomely outre note, with Cuplin wailing sickly on a saxophone as the song gears up, but it’s really when the bass- and drums-heavy production from Cameron Nicklaus steps forth with a welcomed Verellen skins pummeling and Cuplin shouting into the aether that the track clicks into intense focus. A simple riff and tip-tap drumming carries the catchiness of followup Meow Meow Meow, but that riff does provide a nice backbone to the song, which proves to be an important element – whether it’s a hefty beat or a killer blast of distortion (or just an ear-itchy vocal hook, like on It’s Electric), Pangs opening half or so has this constant feeling of force behind it.
The middle of the album is when there’s a seeming shift, though. Bone Shard Fashion is sort of straight-forward punk, which would suggest a similar level of energy but rather flattens things out. And then the group peels things back a bit for several tracks thereafter, possibly trying to mix up the intensity and give the songs a different sense of focus, though unfortunately just finding a mid-range sound that starts to fall into that dreaded mishmash valley of “this sounds like a handful of other things” of the caliber of the aforementioned name-checked bands. Those name-checks are good ones, but still, it’s nice to have your own identity.
Amuse Bouche, the next to last track, does stir up some intensity again, and though closer Pang Time is a bit wandering in its post-rock off-timeness, it’s intriguing – it expands the three-man band template into something fuller, more arena-sounding, and suggests further avenues for Constant Lovers to potentially explore.