So-Cho Pistons - Knuckleheads (Cover Artwork)

So-Cho Pistons

Knuckleheads (2020)

Monster Zero Records

I’m starting to think that anything Monster Zero puts out is going to be awesome. Their recent releases are pretty good evidence of this, one of which is Knuckleheads by So-Cho Pistons, a veteran punk band from Hiroshima. The label tends to focus on Ramones-influenced pop-punk (though not entirely) and this record doesn’t stray from that. I wasn’t necessarily surprised on my first listen, yet I was impressed by how fast and aggressive it is, all while still maintaining a big sense of melody. 

The album comes off the bat pretty hot with a sub 2 minute opener (“No Way”) that’s fast and aggressive with a pretty catchy call and response chorus. And most of the songs on the record more or less follow this formula, though there are some mid-tempo tracks. For example, “I Love Fifi”, “Rise Up”, and “Sora Takaku” slow things down a bit, yet they are still just as powerful and aggressive.

There’s nothing really flashy about this record (except for maybe the cover art) and that’s just how I like it. There aren’t any guitar solos or fancy riffs, yet the songs are never boring or plain. And while the song structures are pretty straightforward, the band throws in a few intricacies to fill in the gaps like the upstrokes before the second verse on “No” or the tom fills on “Face of Fake” or cool little bass runs on “Ready Steady Go”, among many others.

After a few listens, I found myself singing along to most of the songs, most likely because the tunes are full of melody. And oftentimes, like on “Teo Nobase” and “One Rocket”, they start the song with the chorus, a pretty effective technique if you want to catch the listener’s attention. The band occasionally incorporates a bit of a Misfits feel, whoahs included, and a Roy Orbison vocal technique (i.e. “Sora Takaku”). And while most of the words are in Japanese, they mix in some English, mostly during the choruses, which is part of the reason I’m singing along but have no idea what the hell I’m singing.

This album is one of the reasons why I love writing reviews for Punknews. I’m able to listen to records that, in most cases, I probably would not have heard otherwise. I’ve listened to this record at least 20 times over the last week or so and it’s still fresh. Of course, having 18 songs in less than 30 minutes has a lot to do with this. But it’s also the passion in the vocals, the power in the music, and the authenticity with the band in general.