Kill Surf City
“Angry Ska” – not a phrase heard often or referenced commonly. Originally coined by forum goers when Reel Big Fish frontman Aaron Barett launched the short-lived side project The Forces Of Evil, there has been little reason to keep it in one’s vocabulary in pervious years. I suppose that’s why it took me a while to land on a descriptor after several listens to California’s The Atom Age. The brass inclusive five-piece plays with an expressive contempt clear in all elements of their aggressively titled debut full-length, Kill Surf City.
As one might expect, the whole affair projects a rather threatening tone. Opener “Turn It Around” blasts off by layering on a combination of crunchy riffs and hostile drumming before a very low-played saxophone chimes in offering some quick, bluesy blasts. And it shouldn’t be long before listeners clue in to the band’s distinct lack of an upstroke (which also explains my struggle for a ska diagnosis). Compounding the irritated aura, vocalist Ryan Perras angrily rattles through egocentric lines, eventually retreating from the fore to let his equally irate bandmates cover during the track’s bridge.
As should be clear, the source of The Atom Age’s anger lays buried in a sense of prideful defiance. For instance, in “Baby Says” the band follows a completely obsessed ex-boyfriend who just won’t take a hint. Meanwhile in “Atom Man,” vocalist Ryan “Kwon Doe” Perras professes in an antagonizing tone “Atom Man, that’s something I am, just can’t cover it up, Atom Man, the good and the bad, just can’t get enough,” pleading listeners to shamelessly “cash in while [they still] can,” revealing an underlying every-man-for-himself selfishness.
Amidst their “wishing the worst” sentiment, there’s also an adventurous instrumental spirit. Take “One Minute To Midnight” for instance. Between angry bursts the band experiments with an oddball saxophone and guitar solo heavy on the discord. Other times, as found on “A.I.,” the band embraces its saxophone’s jazzy roots thanks to a slowly advancing, bluesy beat. These thoughtful extras embellish the album, helping distinguish The Atom Age from the ska-punk status quo.
So the question remains, how much anger can one take? Well, as it turns out, fourteen tracks of well-written sarcastic cynicism is surprisingly invigorating. It’s like pummeling a punching bag until your arms feel weighted down by an unconquerable burden – there’s an exhausting yet therapeutic quality to hearing The Atom Age vent.
Brazen, self-centered and rude, Kill Surf City stands as a harshly critical, self-destructive exersize in unmediated anger. Certainly worth pulling out for those self-centered, egocentric days.