Comes with download code. Neighborhood Brats return with their second full length record, and let’s just start by saying it’s a scorcher. The band plays a brand of punk that, had they existed in 1977, would have been right at home on Dangerhouse Records alongside The Bags and The Avengers. That said, “Claw Marks” might just be the first Neighborhood Brats records that truly captures and urgency and energy of the band’s chaotic live show. The record finds the band at the top of their game in terms of songwriting, musicianship, and lyricism. So much so that lead singer Jenny Angelillo says that there are several songs on the album that could easily be her epitaph. “Claw Marks” is an upbeat but beaten down soundtrack to the dystopian nightmare we find ourselves living in. When the band sings “It’s time to check out/We’re being left out” it sounds like a mantra for our time, while the album closes with Jenny singing “Dance with me/Bones, blood, And teeth/Dance with me/Into the Void” over a reverb drenched guitar line provided by the band’s other core member, George Rager, that sounds like it was lifted out of some post-apocalyptic western. It’s all so fucking perfect.
Our take: Latest full-length (their second, though they also have a ton of 7”s and a singles collection LP) from this California band. Having grown up on 90s melodic / pop-punk and gotten into 80s-style hardcore through that style and the ’77 classics, I’m always impressed with bands who can toe the line between those styles, and Neighborhood Brats are one of the best. While most of their songs feature catchy vocal parts, they never sound like a weak pop punk band. Their songs are uniformly upbeat and/or aggressive, and they never sound like a one-dimensional hardcore band. Further, while Neighborhood Brats are one of those bands whose sound you can recognize in seconds, the space between these different micro-genres proves fertile, allowing them room to write songs that sound remarkably different from one another. Tracks like “Night Shift” and “One Way Friends” edge toward the jittery, punked-up power pop of Midnite Snaxxx (one of my personal favorites), while “Misery Parade” and “Nina’s Ghost” sound like the more hardcore end of late 80s / early 90s skate punk (either would have been a solid track on a mid-period Bad Religion LP). Tracks like the big closer, “Touching the Void,” bring reverbed-out surf guitar into the mix a la Night Birds. Claw Marks is an ambitious album, but one that still gives you everything you expect from a DIY punk LP. If you’re a fan of Night Birds and No Love you should also add a big stack of Neighborhood Brats records to you “N” section.