Us Brits do a hell of a lot of things right when it comes to music. Punk, metal and rock and roll, we have it all. However, if there’s one thing that America nails and we don’t, it’s skate punk bands who discover feelings and get all earnest on us. Which sounds like an insult but is intended as nothing of the sort. There’s something about America’s long roads and tiny towns that breed bands like The Wonder Years and The Menzingers that we just don’t have here. Or at least we didn’t.
For while Brighton may not be a Mid-Western state, it’s obviously got something in the water. On their second album, Outsiders, Gnarwolves are taking on those American bands at their own game. And, whisper it now, they might just be better at it. For alongside all that earnest talk of getting away there is a strain of British punk delivered with a sneer on this album. They sound like a band who were born in a garage, and it adds an edge to this music that brings it to life.
Take the opener, ‘Straitjacket’, a track that feels like it’s held together by string. It’s rowdy and punk, and yet when it hits the chorus, you’ll be screaming along at the top of your lungs. Elsewhere, ‘Wires’ sounds like The Menzingers played by a punk band and has an opening riff that will have crowds bouncing. These are songs to fall in love to, but they’re also songs to get rowdy to, and somehow that’s a perfect combination.
For underneath all that punk rock dishevelment there’s an air of melancholy to Outsiders. ‘Argument’ sees Thom Weeks slur ‘I wanna be abused’ while even ‘The Comedown Song’, which on the surface is a bouncy party starter, is really about stepping back from that scene with the anthemic chorus of ‘fuck your party.’ There’s an apathy to the lyrics that is delivered alongside a wit that is quintessentially British.
Outsiders is the sound of a band growing up. It sees Gnarwolves transition from a fun time pop-punk band into one that can write serious songs that could fill arenas. What makes it stand out, however, is that the punk side is still there. They still sound like a group that rehearse in their parent’s back room and who will turn up to tear your living room to shreds. It’s a feeling that helps their music connect even as they sing about wanting to leave those parties behind. If they can continue to capture that and write songs this good, then what is great at the moment could go on to be incredible.