2007 has been an indisputably great year for punk rock. So many great bands have emerged over the last few years that have cut awesome records; however, in many cases it's not these records -- in and of themselves -- that are exciting, but the promise that they suggest. To put it another way, good as they may be, they're not perfect...they're not it, but they give you the idea that it is just around the corner.
Among these young bands from whom I expect big things is Portland's Drunken Boat (well, now I guess they're the Drunken Boats). Between their Turn It 7", their split with Bent Outta Shape, and their self-titled album released last year, they've amassed a pretty decent collection of late `80s East Bay-flavored punk rock, but until just recently, nothing that really felt like it would stand the test of time.
When I think of Japanese punk rock, I think of Snuffy Smile Records. While the label's been around since the early `90s, label dude Yoichi seems to have kicked things into overdrive in the last few years, releasing a slew of awesome splits one after the other. Usually, these splits feature one Japanese band and one American; one of the best in his stable of Japanese bands is Blotto, who had already released five splits with the label. I first heard 'em on 2005's split with San Diego's Altaira and have strived to get my hands on all their records ever since. A split with Drunken Boat though was especially exciting.
Drunken Boat start their side up with "Precious on the Edge." Looking over the record sheet, I was a little disturbed. The lyrics are sang in the third person, and they begin with "Scene opens on a front porch," before starting in on "our protagonist." It all sounds a little cheesy, I thought. Is this Drunken Boat's attempt at a punk rock opera? Are they trying to be epic? Well, I don't know what they were going for, but the song is fucking epic. It clocks in at almost five minutes, but chances are that it'll end long before you'd like it to and find yourself continually moving that needle back to edge of the record. As for those cheesy lyrics? Well, they don't sound so lame anymore. By the third or fourth listen, you may even begin to identify with "our protagonist." "Precious on the Edge" is the song I've been waiting for Drunken Boat to write. It's fast, layered, anthemic, fun, and inspiring. If they can turn out an album's worth of material at this quality...well, we might all have a new favorite band.
While there may not be anything on Blotto's side of the record that rivals "Precious on the Edge," they certainly hold their own. Like the Boats, these kids seem to have grown up on Crimpshrine records and while they're not doing anything too innovative, they can write a pop-punk song like nobody's business. With "Spinning on a 45," "The Milwaukee Shuffle" and "Annie" they make that much abundantly clear. If you're a fan of the aforementioned style, catchy choruses, alternating gruff/clean vocals ą la D4 and lots of energy, this is for you.
So many great records have come out lately that it's overwhelming, but this is one of several essentials. Unfortunately, it's probably seen its first and only pressing, but lucky for you, it's not sold out just yet. If you're not too shiftless, you might even be able to get your hands on one of 300 with special stenciled and screened covers, courtesy of Salinas Records. When it's gone forever, don't say you didn't know any better!