by Kyle Cochrun
Garage rock is alive and well in Akron. If you want proof, check out the new LP of pollutant surf rock from Roid Rage, titled Dirty Ugly, and the latest EP of hybrid, fuzz-laden pop-punk from Curtains, titled Summer’s Over, Jerk!
With song titles like “Bone Sucker,” “Kalifornia Krome,” “Suburban Biker Gang” and “Bleeds Out,” you can probably guess that Dirty Ugly is the kind of primitive rock and roll made for smashing beer cans against your skull.
“[Dirty Ugly] is about climbing on amps, pushing physical limits during two-and-a-half minute songs and smashing sixers in parking lots,” says Roid Rage guitarist and vocalist Jake Schott.
Lyrically and musically, Dirty Ugly douses listeners with visions of muscle-car exhaust fumes and grimy dive bars where leather-clad punks splatter low-grade liquor all over their jackets. There’s little to scrutinize and a lot to take in. Roid Rage understand that having nothing to say can be the basis for a damn good time.
In songs like “$$$” and “Vice Grips,” lyrics are obscured by distortion and buried under guitar fuzz. What’s more important are the feral yelps and Beach Boys-style “ooooohs” that color the band’s sordid sound shindig. Songs are brief, tightly packed, rambunctious. Guitar melodies are simple and earworm-inducing. From song to song, the message is “let’s party!” and the energy never relents til the record cuts out. Whereas many garage-rock acts struggle to replicate the unruly energy of their live shows during recording sessions, Roid Rage bring the rager to the studio.
On Summer’s Over, Jerk!, their buddies Curtains bring a similarly high octane level with a more varied sound palette.
The EP’s opener, “Burnin Down,” is a feel-good beach party jam, but the sand is strewn with crusted-over beer cans and the water is gloopy and thick with oil swirl patterns. “Best Friends” loses the murk for a heartfelt love song with comprehensible lyrics carried by muscled-up guitars and a rich spattering of background vocal harmonies. The song breaks into a sprint at its close and is followed by the rapid-fire drum break that starts off “Maybe, Maybe Not.”
“Comin In Scott” opens as a somber cruise and busts into anthemic jam bouts while vocalist Mason Dies sings about how they “never change” but “never stay the same.” These guys are able to screw with time signatures and tempo changes without sacrificing the catchiness that makes the songs endearing.
Dies describes Curtains’s sound, as well as that of Roid Rage, as coming “from a dark but fun place.” This is a fitting description for Summer’s Over, Jerk!, which is smeared in vibrant tone colors and manages to be both moody and boppable.
Listen to both records on Bandcamp!
Roid Rage: https://roidrageband.bandcamp.com/album/dirty-ugly-2
Kyle Cochrun is a writer from Akron and is currently enrolled in the NEOMFA program for creative writing.
Photo at top: Jake Schott from Roid Rage (left) and Mason Dies from Curtains (right) after their double-bill show at the Matinee in Highland Square on March 9. Photo by Ali Good.