Charger - Charger [EP] (Cover Artwork)


Charger [EP] (2018)


Matt Freeman’s Devil’s Brigade was one of the first Rancid side projects, debuting with singles in 2002 and 2003. A long hibernation followed, until Freeman revived the project with a full-length album in 2010, before again falling silent. The reception for Devil’s Brigade had been mixed. Critics and fans agreed that while the musicianship was excellent, the album overall suffered from corny lyrics, and a sense of inconsistency, due to only half of the tracks following the original idea of a concept album about the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

In late 2018, Freeman returned with a brand new project called Charger. Gone is the muddled concoction of psychobilly/folk-punk/oi!/contents of the kitchen sink. On Charger’s three song debut, Freeman, along with guitarist Andrew McGee, and drummer Jason Willer (of Jello Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine), channel classic metal acts such as Motorhead and Black Sabbath, throw in some Bay Area punk flavor, and produce a very promising, and very consistent, EP.

On the opening track, “Kings”, the Motorhead influence is front and center, to the point of nearly being derivative. Freeman changes up his usual quick, punk-shout vocal delivery in favor of ringing out the notes more slowly, as should be done in this, a traditional metal song. As a result, the listener finds that Freeman actually has a pretty impressive range, and despite his voice being just a little bit lower, ends up sounding a great deal like Lemmy himself. Willer's drums are utilized perfectly; keeping things steady and only jumping to the front to hammer along with one of Freeman’s signature bass arpeggiation freakouts.

“Damaged” follows, and here the band really starts to have some fun. The track starts out with a slower, AM radio rock feel. The lyrics about regret and self-loathing are simple (yet not corny) and only stick around for 90 seconds of the 4 minute track. After that, we get a nicely constructed instrumental finish. The guys ebb and flow the style and tempo just enough to give the remaining minutes some really satisfying texture, without going on for so long that it turns into a jam session.

The closing track “Victim” is the most hard-charging (pun intended) of the bunch. The speed is turned up, the guitar finally gets to shine, and the lyrics are as good as they get on this record. Matt’s vocals channel Lemmy even more here than on “Kings”, to the extent of appearing to take on his British accent. But think of it as a tribute, rather than a ripoff.

All in all, I have to hand it to Charger. While this is just a little 3 song EP, it sounds like the band is on a good path. The songs are structured neatly, the sound is well toned and consistent. They would serve themselves well to perhaps not sound quite so exactly like their influences, but it's early on; I'd be very curious to hear what these guys could do with a full length album.