Grabass Charlestons - Ask Mark Twain (Cover Artwork)

Grabass Charlestons

Ask Mark Twain (2005)

No Idea

I could draw some lengthy comparison between the Grabass Charlestons and Mark Twain. I could talk about how both the Gainesville punk band and the famous author present social commentary under the guise of light-hearted, often comical storytelling, or the way they both use art as a means of dissent, but you know what, that might just ruin things. You see, what makes the Grabass Charlestons so great is their simplicity. Now, I don't mean unskilled, incapable simplicity, I mean knowing how to trim the fat so only the juiciest bits remain.

The Charlestons play gimmick free pop-punk made up of speedy drumbeats and fuzzy, often jangly guitars topped off with No Idea's should-be-patented gruff vocal delivery. The songs exhibit an energy most punk bands wish they could muster and a pop songwriting knowledge most punk bands are too scared to indulge in. The guitar parts often carry a melody of their own that is nicely interwoven with drummer Will Thomas's one-too-many cigarette vocals, while bassist Dave Drobach adds some well-placed harmonies and backups.

Lyrically, the band tackles everything from anti-war protests and patriotism to being a line cook and coke addiction. They even use some of Mark Twain's poetry on the title track. The lyrics are intelligent and bitterly sarcastic, much like fellow punks the Lawrence Arms and Dillinger Four. You will feel informed, but not overwhelmed -- entertained, but not brainless.

The only problem with this album is that the same simplicity that is so endearing and enjoyable can also lead to minor problems. Some of the tracks will seem a bit indistinguishable to the untrained punk listener, and when Thomas puts down the mic down so Drobach can take over lead duties on "Prosthetic Soul" it is rough, and not in the good sense.

Still, these inconsistent moments are far from glaring and in no way detract from a pop-punk album that manages to do what all pop-punk albums should strive to: Deliver a fun and energetic product that is as accessible as it is clever.