QWAM - QWAM (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


QWAM (2019)

self released

With their dayglo color schemes, bouncy rhythm, and hyper-caffeinated chrosuses, QWAM, at first glance, seem to come from a different dimension where New Wave was never derailed by grunge and the mall is still the center of culture. Throughout their high energy debut album, the band decisively pulls from some ‘80s thematic troupes- the mall, the prom as the pinnacle of popularity, and television as a portal to the outside world. But therein lies the trick- though their view seems to come from a skewed source, QWAM is directly commenting on timeless issues while deftly making it seem like they’re being silly. (They’re not, but that’s their skill in the switcheroo).

“Everybody Wants To Watch” is propelled by a Go-Go’s meets No Doubt bounce that as fun and boppy as 85-95 radio hit. But, despite the fun sheen, the band directly comments on media rotting out your individual for the sake of projecting an image. “Can’t Talk about It” kicks off with a racing ‘70s punk riff while singer Felicia Lobo talks about perennially being an outsider and having to keep those feelings inside. She also takes on urban decay. It would all come off as very dark if it wasn’t so much fun. That is to say, the band is directly addressing issues that crust punk and d-beat bands have hot before, but instead of crossing their arms and frowning, they’re throwing a neon colored party.

Nicely, the band pulls from a wide variety of sounds on the release instead of just aping one of two influences. “I’m around” kicks off with some Bobby McFarren whistling before rollicking into a positively sunny background. That makes it that much more striking when the band does go pure black. “Home” (a masterpiece for sure) is built around a grunge rumble that takes off with huge, grimey riffs, low slung bass, and Dale Crover level drumming. Lobo calls out, “Take my insides/what’s your’s is mine/you made me forget my name/but I don’t wanna know/you made me forget why I came/but I don’t wanna go/… you want to swallow me whole…” The band is mostly having fun on this album, so when they pull the reigns on that for a minute or two and go full on depressed, it’s not only moving, but it comes off as genuine, which is usually harder to do than one might think.

QWAM had a few really cool singles prior to this album and somewhat surprisingly, they each expressed different sectors. Whether the band was still figuring themselves out or expressing their range is unknown, but like few debut albums, the band has capitalized on the promise of their early EPs and have released an LP that not only meets those expectations, but pushes into new areas as well. This is not only a fun album, but it’s deceptively deep- you just have work you way through the bright neons and a-little-too-wide smiles on the cover.