Review Summary: Floridian punk rockers Virgins turn out a hook-laden, phlegm-encrusted, ass-kicking debut.
Over the last few years, I've come to the conclusion that if there's one thing that'll dissuade me from listening to the music of a band I've never heard before, it's the claim that they have "old-school punk influences." Apparently, for many bands, it's enough to get all the energy, snotty attitude, and low-fi production job down to a tee, while somehow managing to forget entirely that what made the likes of Minor Threat
, The Misfits
, and even The Sex Pistols
' music so enduring, was the fact that their songs were incredibly catchy. For every "Straight Edge," there was a "Minor Threat;" for every "Demonomania," there were twice as many songs like "Hybrid Moments." Thankfully, Florida's Virgins
aren't so ignorant.
While you'd hardly label Virgins a hardcore band, they certainly take a large amount of influence from late 70s/early 80s punk, and 80s hardcore - it's no coincidence that the cover of Miscarriage
bears a resemblance The Misfits' Earth AD
. Vocalist/guitarist Sam Johnson has certainly got a solid backing in melodic hardcore, having spent the best part of a decade as part of New Mexican Disaster Squad
, but this time around, he's opted to slow the tempo slightly and add a few vaguely southern rock-styled licks. More to the point though, the band have realised the importance in putting the songwriting in front of the posturing, and thus find themselves miles ahead of the majority of bands who claim similar influences.
While the attitude and energy are there in spades, through Sam's snarls and politically incisive lyrics, and the suitably aggressive rhythm session of Phil Longo (bass) and Eric Pitman (drums), there's always a huge hook to keep you coming back for more. Take "Burn" for example: squealing guitar leads and bouncy rhythms bookend some of the catchiest vocal melodies the band has to offer, including of course, the customary "WHOAH"s. Or "WWZD," where the opening guitar part could have been lifted straight from a pop-punk song, at least until it morphs into something out of a Lynyrd Skynyrd
track. The melodies throughout, as gruff and throaty as they are, aren't likely to detach themselves from your brain for some time, and with the short track-lengths not exactly allowing for much repetition, you'll be coming back soon for another fix.
Despite the lack of a rhythm guitarist (a surprising move, given the amount of solo-y parts Sam plays), the songs always sound well filled-out, and with the fairly low-fi production to match, the end result is that of a solid punk rock album, stripped-down but never annoyingly so. In fact, the only criticism I could reasonably level at Miscarriage
is the fact that there's little, if any variation between the songs. However, this straight-forward approach retains its impact by not outstaying its welcome - the album clocks in at a relatively short 25 minutes. I've always felt this sort of music is best presented in the form of EPs and short full-lengths, and by providing the proverbial "short, sharp shock," Virgins have proved this method to be very effective. Miscarriage
is a solid debut, and one which promises a bright future for the band.