Music historians will tell you that Punk, in its original form, evolved from two separate sources. In America, the nucleus was a New York scene of garage rock bands, musical hustlers and street urchins, in the UK bored London art college kids re-appropriated glam imagery and invented their own high velocity pop. Their common ground was always to be found more in the attitude and swagger than in any strong musical bonds. It is interesting to note, therefore, that Seattle’s Suburban Vermin seem built on the heritage of both scenes, the advantage afforded both in being able to look back from afar and the ubiquity of old music to the modern market.
Opening on a bass line that The Pop Group themselves would kill to have written, Die Miss America somehow blends the pop sensibility and the frantic melody of the Old world with the scatter-gun guitar and aggressive swagger of the New. It is underpinned by a touch of Killing Joke’s industrial sturm and drang, brash Clash-ness but never loses that Lower East Side basement vibe.
Accompanying track, It’s Over, sees more of their home city’s traditions seeping into their music. It is a more textured and dynamically astute affair, leaning more towards the embryonic grunge scene and its later Riot Grrrl offshoots and offers a wonderful contrast to its more punchy and direct musical companion.
There probably isn’t too much more that can be done with the punk template after all these years, not without wandering off into “fusion” territory, and why would you? Suburban Vermin however pull off that great trick of reminding us of all that was great about the genre across a couple of decades and still bring enough of themselves to the game that it never seems pastiche or plagiaristic. Clever, very clever.
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