It only takes 30 seconds of opening track “Two-Tone Hair” to remind me why I spent most of my teenage years listening to pop punk bands. The crisp, slashing guitar, plodding bass and vamping vocals manage to plunge into my chest somewhere near teenage memories of skateboarding, rule-breaking and trying to kiss girls. But it doesn’t stop there. Even memories I don’t have leak out: I never smoked pot in my parents’ bedroom. Never spent high school nights cruising around Buffalo with a 40. I was a pretty normal kid! But therein lies the power of Made Violent’s eponymous debut EP: a pop punk album so polished it manages to create and satisfy its own nostalgia simultaneously.
Made Violent is a three-piece from the icy mountains of Buffalo, and they are not going to let you forget it. Their pleasantly branded persona includes frequent references to the impact of growing up in a mostly-dead city, and an intense (if slightly contrived) desire to use their band as a ticket to get away from Buffalo forever. This goal looks achievable, with the singles released up until this point having received well-deserved attention and a record deal with Columbia Records’ Startime international label. This EP marks their first formal release.
Made Violent plays an infectious brand of garage rock, with big power-pop guitar and impeccable production. “On My Own” begins with muted guitar and tambourine until a noise track accelerates into a second guitar track, which then cleanly and viscerally accentuates the first. Joseph White’s vocals cut with a Julian Casablancas power and an undeniable “cool.” By the moment the time change and chorus of, “Wasted time is always unforgiven, I’m wasting mine and now I’m on my own!” hits the listener, you’re already in his palm. It’s pop writing so effective it almost makes you angry at yourself for bobbing your head. This track is followed by “Dirty,” an anthem for teenage debauchery with a drop that rivals Deadmau5, and “Inside Out,” an inexorable tune with syncopated vocals and cathartic guitar breakdown of cleanly contained chaos.
Inarguably, Made Violent sounds a heck of a lot like The Strokes with its jangly pep; closing track “Wasted Days” sounds almost like a cover. But a band like this doesn’t need to reinvent anything, and perhaps what’s most impressive about this album is how it manages to use traditional garage rock revival tools (affected vocals, light distortion, teenage themes) so effectively that it never needs to stretch. Every song carries a powerful momentum, and an excitement so tangible that I challenge anyone to stop themselves from plunging in and rocking out like a teenager.
In A Word: Irresistible