Armalite is a punk rock supergroup of sorts that's been in the makings for three years now, and considering the pedigree here, it's anticipated I'm sure. The band features Atom Goren formerly of the one-man Atom and His Package, Dan Yemin (now currently in his third band, the other two being beloved hardcore punk outfits Lifetime and Paint It Black), Mike McKee formerly of Kill the Man Who Questions and currently of Amateur Party, and Jeff Ziga of True If Destroyed and Affirmative Action Jackson. Thus, the experience here results in a highly intelligent but consistently fun punk rock party.
While Goren handles the vast majority of the vocals here, in the early goings it's McKee and Ziga at the forefront, bringing along a slight Bouncing Souls vibe in turn. However, it's really Goren's goofy whine that propels the music: This is poppy punk rock done very well and fairly unique.
The content of Armalite is probably best described as similar to the structure of Atom and His Package's "The Palestinians Are Not the Same Thing as the Rebel Alliance, Jackass" from 2003's Attention! Blah Blah Blah.; that song was a humorous use of sociological commentary on Goren's part, wrapped up in a Guttermouth-styled musical sense. Armalite is more or less in that vein: A more punk rock Atom and His Package with the same lyrical style of poking fun at the views of society's members, just musically smarter. It's however apparent that the wit in Goren's pen has built since his last release. Vague as it is, he knows how to convey this commentary in an even greater bizarre display of smarts: One of the disc's standouts, "When Nice People Think Dumb Things, Attack, and Vote," offers a chorus of "Always will the homophobics dance to the YMCA? Or at some weird point, does irony kick you in the ass and say 'yeah (yeah), okay, okay;'" it really is, honestly, metaphor at its most profound, as Atom mentions in the liner notes his belief that "a lot of the people who voted in the U.S...are [not] as mean spirited as...the administration they elected; [they're just] not very good critical thinkers." Goren even pairs up an observance with a musing about his diabetes diagnosis in "I Am a Pancreas (I Seek to Understand Me...):" "Ridiculous eating had nothing to do with this! I deserve something worse for that than the die-a-beet-a-ta-tis. / And if you were to look at a photograph, you'd say 'you look so much better now than then.' Then thank you for the retroactive criticism disguised as a compliment."
One minor complaint I might unleash on Armalite is the complete lack of pissed off, baritone howl from Yemin; it's vocal-less from him, in fact. Granted, for Yemin to sing in songs with Goren would be too hilarious of a Jekyll and Hyde juxtaposition to take seriously, but it would be likely to work in songs with McKee and/or Ziga to further make an explosively colored confection of a record. However, Yemin, who plays bass on the album, submits a funny trait of his own: He reportedly stole guitar riffs from "old hardcore bands" and inserted them into the songs. They're hard to pick up on, but his riff in the opening of "Entitled" most certainly recalls Minor Threat's "I Don't Wanna Hear It." It's that and Yemin's sparsely used but always stellar songwriting (see the results of his liner-noted condemnation of "parameters for success shoved down the throats of kids today [...] pressure to get the best grades and the best SAT scores and go to the best schools" in "Unfinished Business") where he does manage to get his say in.
Either way, Armalite is a tons-of-fun disc with a lot to like. It makes multiple critical and poignant societal observances but keeps it upbeat, catchy, and wrapped up pink and pretty in an aggressively ticking package.
I Am a Pancreas (I Seek to Understand Me...)
When Nice People Think Dumb Things, Attack, and Vote