Bangers – Small Pleasures

Bangers - Small PleasuresThere are an awful lot of us banging on about Bangers these days. They tour themselves pretty hard and crop up on a lot of bills; to their credit, seeing them doesn’t get old. I last saw them supporting Iron Chic and reviewed the show here; last November I also reviewed their previous full-length, Dude Trips.

Small Pleasures is the band’s first official full-length; Dude Trips was assembled from various previous releases whereas this was all recorded back in January. Whilst it was difficult to find fault in the consistency and coherence of Dude Trips it’s increasingly obvious to me that Small Pleasures is a significantly superior record.

I have to throw in a small aside here: for those of you not entirely sold on pop-punk / melodic hardcore / whatever term you dig, Small Pleasures isn’t a fundamental shift from what Bangers have done before and nor is it a revolutionary punk rock record. Normally at this point I’d type out some cliché such as “if you’ve yet to be converted, this won’t be the record to do so”, but I’m not convinced that’s the case here. Bangers have pretty much refined their form of three-piece pop-punk to exactly where it needs to be: fast, full, packed with more hooks than a roll of razorwire and dense with affecting, thoughtful autobiographical lyrics. Like all the best punk rock trios every instrument works together to provide just the right component for these simple-yet-intricate songs.

Throw a stone at Small Pleasures and you’ll hit a top-notch song (and also scratch your vinyl, you pillock). Take ‘Making Friends’, the opener which exhibits the inherently catchy songwriting and warm, fuzzy melodies that are characteristic of the band, as well as lyrics that serve as a fine example of singer/guitarist Roo’s fondness for wordplay. The title refers to couples conceiving children: “Baby I’m so bored, why don’t we create a life? We’re so bad at making friends, I think that we should make our own.” More than that, it explores the fear and sense of existential despair that characterises couples growing into the isolation of a bored, alienated life, and how their reasons for bringing a new life into the world might be misguided at best.

There’s also a strong thread of self-doubt to the lyrics present on Small Pleasures, best highlighted by the witty, self-deprecatory ‘Irritants’:

On my return to work I was asked the age-old question “how were your holidays?” I said it was much like being drunk if you’re a glass of water. That earned one laugh and two empty stares and that’s nothing new to me. Is that completely nonsensical? Is there any worth in playing games with words or am I just a fucking irritant?

One empty stare said “you know, sarcasm’s the lowest form of wit” and I said “hey, I’m paraphrasing science fiction here. I’m re-imagining the world with metaphor and imagery. So you can keep sarcasm like a broken toy, maybe hide it with your sense of humour”.

“You’re wasting my time,” he said.

There’s plenty more that I’d love to share but it’s probably best experienced in the original delivery vector. Regardless it’s still worth noting that ‘A New Raymondo’ is a particularly memorable letter to an old friend, now separated by geography and family, that looks backwards and imagines forwards with honest and simple affection, and that ‘Every Night’s a Date Night’ is an impressively nuanced look at a friendship with one of those people you want to keep in your life but sometimes do things that make you despair a little inside.

The conclusion should be clear at this point: Small Pleasures is a superb album, not of the mind-blowing variety but akin to an old friend you’ve known a long time who’s now older, wiser and – here the metaphor breaks down – has some really solid and memorable tunes to share.

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