Big Scary Monsters/Tangled Talk
15 September 2014
by Alex Andrews
Take a good look at the artwork for Gnarwolves’ first full-length record (click the Read More tag below, yeah?). If you’ve seen a worse album cover this year then please let me know. A mountain of skateboards, a garish shade of green and a font that could’ve been lifted from a Goosebumps novel; it’s pretty much exactly what your parents picture when they think of punk. But as bad as it may be, it’s a fitting representation of the Gnarwolves circus, which has probably rolled into your town at some point over the past of couple of years.
Gnarwolves have been one of the few bands to really break out of the UK’s small and incestuous punk rock scene (at least while staying in the parameters of the genre) and make a dash for more prosperous climes. Since their conception in 2011, they’ve proven to be young, talented and willing enough to court the attention of radio stations, glossy magazines and giddy fan girls whose adoration is usually reserved for whiny-voiced gimps with sponsorship deals and music BTECs.
Whenever we’ve heard about Gnarwolves, we’ve heard about the band that trades merch for weed, that makes their own hot sauce and skates around town at night, because ultimately, it’s more fun than hearing about Gnarwolves, the solid and proficient punk band. Gnarwolves have been happy to play the role of court jesters – clowning around on stage, in videos and now, on album covers – and up until now, they haven’t really had the chance to really prove their worth as a band.
Thankfully, Gnarwolves (the album) finds the band at the absolute peak of their powers, pushing the modern template for short, snappy punk rock songs to its most melodic conclusion. Across all ten tracks, Thom Weeks and Charlie Piper trade raspy melodies over galloping drums and chunky, intricate guitar parts. The production is big and bottom-heavy, but the vocals are pushed to the front, repeating choruses until they become deeply lodged into your brain.
Gnarwolves are more accessible than the likes of Iron Chic or RVIVR, but they manage to bottle the same rousing spirit, blend it with fast, technical skate punk, and pepper the finished product with flashes of crossover thrash. There’s also a much softer side to Gnarwolves; you can hear it in the slow-burning build-up before ‘Ebb’ really explodes, and in the intro to ‘Bottle To Bottle’, where a vulnerable-sounding Weeks sings over palm-muted guitar chords.
The band’s fondness for quiet moments of reflection is even more evident in the lyrics, which are surprisingly solemn for a supposed “party” band. Anxiety, bitterness and drug-induced self-destruction are all themes that recur on the record. On ‘Smoking Kills,’ Weeks declares: “I am the product of my father’s burden.” He then digs further to open up more on old wounds on ‘Day Man’ (“Don’t tell me distance gets easier with time / You’re a bastard that left no goodbye”) and ‘Hate Me (Don’t Stand Still)’ (“Do you think you might come home soon if your family needed you?”).
The chemistry between Thom, Max and Charlie and their playful sense of humour is what makes Gnarwolves such a likeable band. But beyond the cheap gags, the gimmicks and the gaudy album art, the real triumph of Gnarwolves – and that’s precisely what it is – lies in Weeks’ ability to make his melancholy memories sound so life affirming. Pretty good for a dumb punk band.
Sounds Like: Bangers, Spraynard, Propagandhi
Standout Tracks: Everything You Think You Know, Smoking Kills, Bottle To Bottle