Punk and rock n' roll reviews from Lord Rutledge and friends
Monday, September 5, 2011
Tenement rules, okay?
Blending the sounds and styles of Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., and early Replacements into that noisy basement pop-punk thing that’s been big in the Midwest for years, Appleton, Wisconsin’s Tenement has firmly established itself as one of the top bands going these days. Long-awaited debut LP Napalm Dream, released this summer, has got to be in the album of the year conversation. It’s really freaking great. Ultimately it makes no difference whether you perceive of Tenement as an indie-fied punk band or a punkified indie band. Because at the end of the day, this power trio fronted by Chinese Telephones drummer Amos Pitsch hearkens back to a time when people weren’t so obsessed with labeling underground music. Great music was great music. Hell, it still is! And Tenement makes great music. The way this band combines melody, aggression, and crackling guitar noise, you’re sure to be reminded of the classic bands it emulates. But at the same time, Tenement’s music is legitimately “now” sounding. Ultimately, it’s the distinctiveness of the band’s sound and the top-shelf quality of Pitsch’s songwriting that separate Tenement from any of a number of run-of-the-mill indie-classic revivalist type groups. If you like full-throttle rockers, songs like “Stupid Werld”, “Earwig”, and “Skyscraper” are raging, hook-laden, and immediately satisfying. But there are plenty of nice surprises as well, such as “City Bus #30”, which shifts tempos numerous times and demonstrates that finessed songwriting can still kick ass. And “Rock Eating People” sounds like what early ‘90s indie rock would have sounded like if it had actually, uh, rocked! I’ve heard more than one person say that Tenement “owns” pop-punk music these days, and I don’t doubt that for a second. But to some people, “pop-punk” still means wimpy three-chord pop and insipid lyrics about girls. Tenement is more like a band that would have fit in perfectly on your mid-’80s Descendents/Husker Du mixed tapes (yet still, improbably, sounds contemporary in 2011). Napalm Dream, delivering 13 hits and zero misses, will have fans in both “the kids” and oldsters like me. If I owned a record store, I’d file it in the “awesome” section.