Some genres are pretty much critic-proof. Punk is a case in point; you can take an unoriginal sound and a played-out message and apply ‘em to hooks you’ve heard a gazillion times, but none of these register as negatives. Ultimately, all that counts is how many fists it can tease aloft, or how many voices it gets singing in unison – and god knows that can make for an intense thrill.
Sometimes, though, a band is so good at this sort of racket that it rises up through the DIY scene and flickers on the radar of people beyond micro-scenes. Don’t bet against Massachusetts trio Notches being the next band to achieve this feat. Built around the songwriting talents of Ezra Cohen and Zac Mayeux, they channel the heart-rending melodies of Evan Dando and Paul Westerberg into bruising power chords while nodding to the likes of Squirrel Bait and mid-period Hüsker Dü.
‘New Kinda Love’ is their third album, following 2016’s rollicking debut ‘High Speed Crimes’ and last year’s remarkably addictive ‘Almost Ruined Everything’. It’s also another notable step forward. Cohen’s the softer-voiced of the two singers, whether musing on the instancy of songs heard on the radio or simply opening a song with the charming line: "I fell asleep in the hospital gift shop..."
He kicks off the album with the pacy hooks of ‘Room Upstairs’, which pogos along joyously before lurching to a dramatic crawl and glorious coda; a slice of pop genius in an album chock-full of ‘em. Mayeux’s efforts are no less smart, however – the heroic chug of ‘Museum of More Dumb Art’ works its way irresistibly into anthemic bliss before ‘Twist the Knife’s nagging, ominous riff explodes into sunny pop oohs that feel like a sudden eruption of tropical summer.
As drummer Dante Guzzurdi proves he’s no slouch either, truly putting the power into ‘power trio’, you suspect that Notches would play these songs with this level of passion even if they thought no one was listening; this is a stunning fulfillment of creative urges rather than a push for mainstream success. But regardless, ‘New Kinda Love’ is an incredible development of the band’s songwriting chops and no doubt a late addition to plenty of end-of-year top tens from fans of intelligent, fuzzed-out guitar pop with one ear to the underground.
In other words, a triumph.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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