Some punk bands’ albums don’t have release dates so much as release periods. First, the record leaks online, then the band starts selling advance copies at shows. Then a few indie stores and web merchants start carrying it. Finally, somewhere, somehow, some way, an official release date (heh, neon) creeps in for all the mom-n-pop corporate giants to hop on.
Such is the case for Neon Creeps, the latest and greatest from Texan trio O Pioneers!!!. The record’s release has been delayed a few times, so much so that by the time the official release date passes by, I’ll have been sitting on this legally purchased folk-punk gem for close to two months, thanks to the magic of online commercialism.
So, will Punknews be stoked? Yes sir and/or madam, Punknews will be totally stoked on Neon Creeps. Guitarist/vocalist Eric Solomon’s voice keeps getting better. Here, he comes off like Chuck Ragan, meaning his pipes are strong and gruff, with a dash of the sexies. Dude twists and shouts like a chain-smoking coal miner. I hope he grows a sweet beard. The other members, Aaron Ervin (drums) and Zak Klaine (bass), give their best performances with O Pioneers!!! yet, which doesn’t actually mean anything since they’re both new. But they’re still good, sleek and assured. Old drummer Chris Ryan is out, which will please fans of steady time-keeping. This new version of the band also boasts 100 percent more bass.
Thankfully, this solid band of merry gentlemen has some great tunes to serve up. “Chris Ryan Added Me on Facebook” harshes on the ex-member’s mellow, but if you ignore the title, you have a relatable, deliciously biting kiss-off to a former friend. It’s bitter like a Morrissey song (or at least a Jesse Lacey one). Which is fitting, since another standout is “My Life as a Morrissey Song,” a 57-second blast of self-doubt in which Solomon tries to analyze the emptiness within his soul before opting to just get the eff over himself. It makes a logical jumping point to the next track, “Stressing the Fuck Out.” With frantic repetition of the phrase “Everything will be alright,” “Stressing the Fuck Out” is in the running for Positive Jam 2009.
Of course, sometimes the songs could stand to have a little more lyrical variety. Opening number “Saved by the Bell was a Super Good Show” tries to get a little too much mileage out of the word “drama” (42x), running on fumes by the time its three minutes are up. I’d love to see him work “disagreement,” “quarrel” and “existential dread” into the song. Actually, “quarrels” would work syllabically. So would “squabbles.” And “baubles,” but that’s not really relevant.
The repetition trick does work to some songs’ advantage, though. Solomon taunts Ryan on “Facebook” by ending almost every sarcastic line with “just like in high school,” liberally spritzing the song with disdain and condescension. The same goes for the closing track “Cool Kid City,” in which Solomon cleanses himself of scene politics, hipster douchebaggery and that all-encompassing drama from the first track. Neon Creeps, in that sense, is like a loose concept album about growing up but still loving the music. Learning to let go, earning independence and such. If you dig Hot Water Music’s vocals, Against Me!’s early tunes and Dillinger Four’s song titles, then you just might be able to mildly tolerate Neon Creeps.