You feel lucky, punk? It’s a funny word, punk, isn’t it… it started as an insult, progressed to a pejorative and is now worn as a badge of honour. Perhaps it always was. Anyway, Down And Outs have a new record out and its aural assault and lyrical content stuck in our ear. By Denis Parkinson.
Down And Outs describe themselves as a punk rock band. It’s an accurate description of the music, but also an invitation to examine a stereotype. As a genre, punk is often undervalued due to lack of understanding of history and intent. For every seminal punk band like Black Flag or Minor Threat, there are countless generic land-fill bands that miss the point. Punk rock is not just a sound… it’s an ethos.
It’s a brave move, then, to describe your band as punk rock because although many get it right, it’s so easy to get it wrong. It’s with a palpable sense of relief, however, that I can report Down And Outs really get it right. The three piece’s latest album, ‘Double Negative’, offers thirteen slices of sub-two and a half minute songs that are energetic and driven. The music here is fast, melodic and follows a formula: catchy and riff-driven exercises in buzzsaw guitars and driving rhythm. The approach is familiar, but means that ‘Double Negative’ fits neatly into the genre. Influences are apparent, but importantly the songs have personality and credibility.
Opener ‘Astoria’ (video below) is a great start with its sparse lyrics and philosophical depth. Hints of Husker Du and eighties US hardcore emerge credibly – there are politics aplenty, but an absence of preaching, as the band make their point then move on in rapid order. The startling ‘You Can Have Your Country Back’ was written on the “dark day” of the Brexit referendum result, for example, but songs about personal loss sit comfortably alongside those of political loss on ‘Double Negative’… after all, the personal is also political. ‘I Think I’m Falling Apart’ introduces a mellower approach, while exploring the loss of a parent, and is punk ballad full of emotional power in one hundred and twenty seconds.
Down And Outs add a credible chapter to punk’s ongoing story and appear to be influenced positively by those who came before. Sure, they manage to avoid the caricature of familiarity… but, most importantly, they rock whilst having something to say.
Pic courtesy Magill