The first time I heard Latterman was in a Long Island basement with Against Me! The ceilings were low and literally dripping with sweat; it was hard to move, the volume was at a brutal high, and I loved every minute of it. The show was a DIY event run for the kids by the kids. There was a sense of community and an actual attempt at sharing ideas. Latterman talked between songs about everything from homophobia and consumerism to being positive and how amazing it is to create something as beautiful and fulfilling as a DIY community.
I bought Latterman's first album, Turn Up the Punk, We'll Be Singing shortly after. It was an intense but catchy mix of pop-punk, with lyrics that left you with a lot to think about. The only problem was that the second half of the album was kind of a letdown, with songs that sounded too similar to their predecessors.
Fast forward a couple years and Latterman have returned with their Deep Elm debut, No Matter Where We Go..! Despite their label move the band is still rooted in the DIY community they hold so dearly. The album was recorded in guitarist Phil Douglas's bedroom, the cover art was done by the drummer's brother, and the band still books all of their shows. Essentially their sound is also still the same (gruff and shouted vocals similar to Hot Water Music and Small Brown Bike over top of extremely tight pop-punk complete with detailed bass lines and a second guitarist that actually plays lead), but the band has managed to add some much needed diversity to their songs.
"Doom! Doom! Doom!" offers a slower tempo that allows the band to really explore their surprisingly melodic songwriting skills. "Yo, Get Into It," uses a groove-heavy chorus and a dissonant, almost noise rock bridge that both recall Fugazi. "Videos Games And Fantasy Novels Are Fucking Awesome!" borders on being a punk ballad with its plodding delivery and lyrics about growing up. "My Bedroom Is Like For Artists" covers everything from a Blink-182 bass line with soft guitars to a full throttle shouted punk anthem, a calm trumpet-assisted section, and a shoutalong outro, while "This Project Is Stagnant (Get It Out Of My Face)" is a speedy punk number with a drumbeat similar to Bad Religion's "Atomic Garden," racing octave chords, and a palm-muted breakdown with muffled vocals.
There is one common thread shared by all the songs on the album (or at least the ones with vocals) and that is their penchant for making you want to sing along. The choruses are huge and fun and the melodies are dangerously contagious. You'll find songs like "Fear And Loathing On Long Island" and "My Bedroom Is Like For Artists" stuck in your head after only one listen.
While Latterman is still obviously a very socially conscious band (see the "about" section on their myspace page) the lyrics on No Matter Where We Go..! often seem to be more ambiguous than insightful. Yes, songs like "We're Done For" and "My Bedroom Is Like For Artists" do offer serious criticisms of patriarchy, misogyny, and white privilege, but many others simply fire off lines like "We need to get out of these boxes," "So move out, move on," and "it will all come together, fall apart, document, break and build, let it go, grab a hold, move, set it free and believe," that leave you wondering just what the band are referring to. Perhaps to make up for this they throw an almost essay-like statement in their liner notes regarding the prevalent sexism found in punk rock and other communities.
What is also a little disappointing about this album is that of the twelve tracks, two are simply short segments of noise with note picking, and one is an instrumental track, leaving you with only nine actual songs. Those nine are fantastic; it would have just been nice to hear a few more.
I saw Latterman again recently in Allentown. It was another DIY performance complete with singalongs, dancing, and of course an abrasively humid basement. They may have made the move up to a bigger label, but in that basement there was no doubt that they still know what punk rock is all about.