I came across Epic Problem through reading a review of the band in Razorcake and it was not only the description of the music that piqued my interest, but also the fact that the band contained a fella called Neil McLennan—better known as Mackie—who played bass in Blitz, a band whose first two singles made a huge impression on me as a spotty leather jacket-clad teen back in the 1980s.
So, a good few years down the line, Mackie is now on six string duties in this quartet and if I was asked to give the briefest comparison of Epic Problem’s sound, I’d point people to two bands: Leatherface and Off With Their Heads. This really gives everyone a nod in the direction as to where Epic Problem are coming from and where many take the Leatherface route these days, it’s not always done as well as this. It’s got all the required parts; big guitars, drums that snap away throughout and less than clean vocals but importantly there are some very strong songs to accompany these qualities, ensuring that the band has the complete arsenal for a gritty performance.
“Battles” is the a-side and is more of the Off With Their Heads sound with the gruff vocals and quite a bouncy feel. Lyrically its inclusion of words such as ‘fist’, ‘confrontation’ and ‘retaliation’ tend to create a number of violent images, but on the other hand it seems to contain a somewhat reflective element to it, and 'been in one too many battles, carry one too many scars does not glorify violent behaviour as much as it hints at it sometimes being a necessary response of which one can grow weary. To me this is borne out with the lyric “the bitterness is rising to the top, there’s no way I can fight it”, which might show the resentment of the use of violence whilst acknowledging that it’s hard to back down and avoid it (I guess this depends on the ‘cause’ for which one if fighting). Reading the lyrics makes me think of not just the physical battles that some contend with, but also many other clashes that we encounter in life, often leaving us feeling battered and bruised albeit it a metaphorical way. Punk rock that makes you think – it’s got to be good.
Anyway, who needs my potentially wrong interpretation of the song’s meaning? Musically this kicks arse and the b-side brings two tracks, “Versus” and “(Not So) Smart Bombs,” with Epic Problem taking a more Leatherface-like approach. In fact, I’d add another Leatherface link to the mix in that I hear the briefest of elements that remind me of the Doctor Bison (featuring Leatherface’s Dickie Hammond) song “Right About You” in the second b-side track. "(Not So) Smart Bombs" is a song dealing with how apathetic people are towards war/conflict around the world these days – if there's no direct impact on them, then it’s a case of "carry on," regardless and sod those who are suffering.
As a debut release, this sure does deliver the goods and it raises expectations for future releases. Fortunately, a six-track 10-inch is due out imminently, so brace yourselves to read a second review of the band here on Punknews in the next few weeks.
End Note: The band’s name is taken from the title of a Fugazi song from the album The Argument.