As the Decline of Western Civilization comes into full focus, our ears turn once again to Los Angeles. The first proper full length from Smirk could very well be the soundtrack to a Decline pt. IV, with tracks like "Living in Hell" and "Hopeless" delivered for a whole new generation of latchkey kids. 'Material' follows 2021's 100% TOTAL PUNK 'EP' and 2020's 'LP', which collected the first two cassettes-de-quarantine that began Nick Vicario's run as Smirk. If you've worn out your copies of those releases, then 'Material' needs no further explanation. But if you're wondering where the magic is - let's start with pure, quality songwriting. Vicario and his revolving cast of Smirk players have really done it this time. It's punk, California, paranoia, guitars, rhythm, and a sense of humor-slash-purpose joining forces to combat reality in the truest sense. Smirk have produced an impressive punk encapsulation of the times across the web of sound on 'Material'.
Our take: Material is the much-anticipated second album from Los Angeles’s Smirk, whose earlier LP and 12” EP turned a lot of heads, both at Sorry State and in the wider punk scene. Smirk feels like a project with a lot of energy behind it, and Material maintains the excitement level by moving forward without abandoning what everyone liked about the earlier releases. There are still some egg punk trappings like the warbly, lo-fi tones and the frequent and dramatic use of out-there synth sounds, but it feels like Material moves the emphasis from the sounds to the songs themselves, which are very strong. Material also avoids the jittery, hyperactive feel of so many egg punk-type bands, cruising along to slacker rhythms that wouldn’t be out place on one of Pavement’s first two albums. Just check out the lead single “Souvenir” if you haven’t already. Its shimmering lead guitar line is one of Material’s high points, and the lyrics and vocals reach for a Parquet Courts style of intellectual ennui. Taking the sounds of the deep underground and applying them to a pop context is an age-old trick, but it’s one that works if you have the chops, and Smirk can pen a catchy, well-structured tune.