Dark Thoughts - At Work (Cover Artwork)

Dark Thoughts

At Work (2018)

Stupid Bag Records

There’s something to be said for perfectly executed pop punk in the vein of the Ramones that can transcend its deceptively puerile subject matter due to the sugary headrush from a rapid-fire power chord assault. At their best, Screeching Weasel and the Queers could conjure the magic from these simple ham-fisted songs of losers in love (before politics and trolling devoured a discography of goodwill). This style of punk was what first hooked me as a teenager in SC when our local heroes The Frantics blew our minds with machine gun drumming soundtracking late night coffee, fresh tattoos, and frustrating scenester girlfriends. Philadelphia’s Dark Thoughts are the new antidote to our current exasperating times with an excellent collection of new tracks.

Dark Thoughts dropped their sophomore full length At Work this weekend following their blog favorite eponymous album and various seasonal mixtapes. To continue to beat a dead horse, this band channels the Ramones in the best way possible, milking straightforward chord progressions until an addictive melody emerges and tightens its noose around the listener. The songs range from 53 seconds to 2 ½ minutes and more than accomplish everything necessary for a pop song to embed itself in your subconscious. The band explores modern love, suffocating debt, uninspiring nighttime entertainments, and the aggravating metamorphoses of adulthood in the span of a sitcom episode.

“Gimme Soda” kicks things off with a 53 second caffeinated rush that has a subtly buried slick guitar lick at 30 seconds that proves the band has more tricks up their sleeve than synchronous downstrokes. Dark Thoughts branch out the Ramones worship to ape the Pixies on “Anything II” with some “Where Is My Mind?” spooky “ooo’s” before piledriving into the crowd. “Psycho Ward” is a loyal companion to “Psycho Therapy.” “I Wish” finds lead Thinker Jim Shomo lamenting his poor romantic decisions in breathless sprints before barreling into a “KKK Took My Baby Away” outro. In a slight respite from the acceleration of the surrounding material, “With You” allows the band room to breathe and finds our narrator begging his love to take his “arms, fingers, and toes” but not to take his heart away. “Two Coffees” finds Jim surprised that he has developed his mother’s habit for a double shot before another dreary day in the office.

“Watch You Walk Away” implores the subject to “get to the good part.” With At Work, Dark Thoughts have filed away all excess for a lean exercise in addictive nostalgia. Their remarkable consistency keeps these tracks fresh and compulsively re-listenable. A perfect sonic accompaniment on your summer vacation to Rockaway Beach.