Pass Away – ‘Thirty Nine’

By Dave Beech

By and large, punk has connotations of being an aggressive, reactionary and often political genre of music. Conversely, pop-punk has a reputation of being whiny and overly emotional, lacking the edge of its parent. Recent years, however, have seen a middle ground emerge that’s equally as emotional as it can be aggressive.

It’s in this latter category that Pass Away fall. What started life as a side project for members of I Am the Avalanche and Crime in Stereo now feels like a fully realised band, creating the kind of cathartic and emotional punk rock will appeal to fans of The Menzingers, The Flatliners or Iron Chic.

‘Thirty Nine’ is the band’s second album and, while their debut was a short and scrappy affair, this time things feel fuller and more considered; the production far cleaner than that of its predecessor.

For the most part, the songs feel more memorable too. Opening acoustic number ‘Chic’s Beach’ is an odd way to kick things off, though it does do a good job of establishing the heartfelt honesty of the lyricism. Second track and lead single ‘Halloween’ does a far better job at establishing the record’s tone; harbouring a similar energy to bands like Gnarwolves, there’s a welcome sense of familiarity, as well self-deprecation, which would have been a far more fitting way to open proceedings.

Elsewhere, ‘Bartender’s Lament’ provides a slice of Menzinger’s style nostalgia and the most memorable chorus on the record. ‘Bushwick’ is another acoustic offering, though this time feeling far more fitting than the aforementioned opener. Coming at the half-way point it provides some brief respite from the record’s driving punk rock, if not from its angst.

‘Coffin Hands’ and ‘Brooklyn Psychotherapy’ round things off in perfect fashion and are definite highlights. The former a cathartic and rousing number that proves to be the strongest track on the album, the latter a slackery conclusion to the record; the piss and vinegar so often previously masked by inherent self-deprecation now finally erupting in the form of erratic guitars and a snotty vocal delivery.

Packing buckets of promise, ‘Thirty Nine’ is the sound of a band coming into their own, yet it doesn’t quite reach its full potential. While the album highlights are excellent, there are too many moments that feel like filler in comparison. That said, it’s by no means a bad record either. What it is, is an album of plaid shirt punk rock for the craft beer generation. And if, like me, that ticks your boxes, you could do far worse than spending some time with it.

DAVE BEECH

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