Booji Boys - Tube Reducer (Cover Artwork)

Booji Boys

Tube Reducer (2019)

Drunken Sailor

And so, in its continuing effort to write a new Dillinger Four album (Nova Scotia Songs of the Americas, maybe?) - or, at the very least, get signed to Dirtnap Records - Halifax, Canada’s Booji Boys have returned with Tube Reducer. “Returned,” is probably the wrong word; it’s the band’ third release in as many years, coming on the heels of 2018’s Unkown Pleathers EP and 2017’s Weekend Rocker. On paper, that kind of burn rate suggests any number of things. Maybe a band with too many ideas. Maybe a band with too few.

There are a lot of touchpoints up in that first sentence; here’s one more to put the question to bed. You’d have to go back to The Marked Men’s Fix my Brain to find an album this self-assured, this free of fatigue or weakness. Tube Reducer is the kind of album yields a new favorite song each listen, or at least a different riff to get stuck in one’s head. The Booji Boys aren’t running out of anything. They’re flying.

It feels reductive to say any band three years into its lifespan is tied to any trope, but the through-lines to the band’s previous releases are all present on Tube Reducer (the four-track recording quality, which gives the album a buzzy, garage fuzz that would feel like an affectation in lesser hands; the lost-in-the-mess vocals, which makes deciphering lyrics guesswork at best; the punchy “get in and get out” song structure style). These are features, not bugs, and are part and parcel to understanding the Midwestern brand of catchy punk the band is going for.

In fact, if there’s a complaint to be leveled here, it’s that the quality of the work at times outpaces the canvas. There’s an alternate version of reality where “Calling,” with its war-on-high-hats drumming and its vocal and guitar harmonies, sits next to “Disconnected” by Face to Face or anything off the first three Blink 182 records on an alt-rock radio station. There’s another world in which “Honeyboy” gets a honky-tonk piano tossed on it lives as a jukebox staple in beer bars the world over. That Booji Boys can pour these ideas into their own signature mold is an accomplishment, but one can’t help but wonder what this band would be able to build in a different sandbox.

Put it another way: Right now, the Booji Boys feel capable of anything. There’s more polish and purpose in the songcraft here than on previous releases, which is a hell of a thing to say about a record that sounds like it was recorded off a boombox. The focus on tunefulness and earworms is higher (“New Replacement” and “Stevie Cool” are so catchy they feel like brain parasites). There are shades of Misfits-adjacent bad-boy punk (“Life as a Fed”), So-Cal hardcore (“Tube Reducer”), classic rock guitar heroism (“Honeyboy”), and 70s proto no-wave (“Distorto” could have been a Devo song; see previous alternate realities) scattered across the record. That none of these turns seem off, that all of them are molded and reflected as something distinct, is a testament to band’s growth and capacity.

There are factors – be they based in production, or in clarity, or in the willingness to explore the full arsenal of attacks we’ve collectively agreed to call “rock and roll” – that may prevent a strawman from fully connecting with Tube Reducer. May that person be cast into the sea. The Booji Boys are genre writers who have fucked around and made a near-classic, the kind of record a thousand people will talk about for the next 10 years.