Review: Denzell – “Tour Tape” EP

I don’t need some punk-rock band to hand over the verdict that, yeah, things are pretty bleak. Even if the Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief weren’t trying to run the show – let me just pause on that for a second and enjoy the thought – the world has no shortage of proof that we’re hurtling toward the eye of the apocalypse. Wait, wait, or are we?

Pittsburgh punk quintet Denzell seems to stake its reputations on different claims. On Tour Tape, its recent EP – released, appropriately, for the group’s November East Coast tour – the group makes garage-punk that’s as fun to listen to as it seems fun to play. Tapping into the jangly guitar-enthusiasms of Pavement; the dissonant, two-guitar shards of Sonic Youth at its rocking-est; and even a touch of – let me get obscure for a minute here – Latimer’s proto-grunginess, these guys are out to dictate that you don’t need to wrap your arms around tragedy to cop your bonafides.

There are plenty of great tracks on the too-short, six-song outing, which is available digitally and on cassette via Crafted Sounds. The excellent “I Wanna Be Your Canary” pairs rough-hewn guitar leads and a light-footed bass-and-drum drive with a kind of understated vocal delivery – but the choruses and bridge crunch! The punk-popper “Orange Peal,” released on a single earlier this year, is anthemic and addictive in all the right ways.  “Short Man” calls to mind Dinosaur Jr. circa Bug, which is an incredible point of departure that not enough GOOD bands are using for their flight patterns. And the scorching “My Pet Rat,” the EP’s most volatile selection, reminds me of, if only in passing of Billy Childish and Thee Mighty Caesars.

But these guys are about more than a few genuine garage-punk blasts, and have more than a few tricks up their collective sleeves. Take, for instance, the EP-closing “Oh The Things You’ll Do,” which uses 8-bit buzzing, synth leads and found percussion as a backdrop for a head-of-nail acoustic ballad. This sort of thing doesn’t fly when the songs aren’t carefully crafted – technique and ideas only can take you so far – and, in this department, Denzell clearly is well-schooled.

What’s also impressive about the release is hearing just how much the band has grown since the Destroy The Lizard Man EP was released last year. (The new EP, for one thing, is more raw and textured.) If these guys aren’t opening soon at Gooski’s for The Gotobeds, there’s either no communication among show-bookers out there or justice is running slim. Check out these guys! – Punksburgh, Dec. 18, 2017


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