Taking Meds – ‘Dial M For Meds’

By Katherine Allvey

Taking Meds are a classic “except for” band. I don’t like hip-hop except for Run DMC. They’re all softcore bands on the bill, except for Turnstile. All shredder bands are metal, all 90’s nostalgia sucks, all bands lose their edge when they get sober… except for Taking Meds. Combining the kind of self-deprecating, self-aware lyrics that Fat Mike spread once upon a time, and a Weezer-without-dodgy-tour-antics teenage pep, this could be the album that takes them out of cult status and into a wider punk collective consciousness.

What’s striking is their honesty. They know they aren’t in the in-crowd, but they don’t especially care. “There is human connection that exists beyond ‘what’s cool,’” vocalist Skylar Sarkis says. “But we expend a lot of effort trying to arrive there. It’s a component of subculture that seems much more outsized than it is – as if it’s going to satisfy some actual human need.” On ‘Outside’, they’re bluntly humorous – “If you’re on the outside looking in, stop looking in!” There’s a tendency to classify the nineties retro sound as teenage or immature, and some bands pull off that energy with style (see: The Pink Spiders). Not so with this band. Taking Meds are the soundtrack to a teenage movie that’s wise beyond its years, or a subversion of the Dawson’s Creek romance. They know the future ahead of high school could well involve mediocrity, and it’s up to them to break out of that. “I can’t think of anything I wanna do instead” states Sarkis on ‘Life Support’ while considering his career options, and it’s the celebration of mundane reality which makes them so appealing. 

Addressing one’s own aging in the punk scene is another trope which bands increasingly have to face. You could go comic like Bowling For Soup, or full on self-aggrandisement like Rancid.  Somehow, on ‘Long Tooth’, Taking Meds have taken a third road. Looking back on trophies “stained like cheap plates”, they capture the disillusionment of finding out that the certificate your mum kept on her fridge all these years was only for participation. Yet somehow, in between the lines of the manifesto of their own elder loser status, they’ve also managed to work in lot of proper punk rock. The drops on ‘Wading Out’ might not start a pit (that’d be too mainstream, after all) but they’ll create a lot of enthusiastic head nodding. Single ‘Memory Lane’ is a little burst of late summer sunshine, all cute harmonies and optimistic key changes, and heavier final track ‘See The Clowns’ tosses regret in with the Nirvana-lite guitar.

Unfortunately, along with their unashamed sense of self comes a potential to alienate those outside the demographic of their fanbase. This is not an album for Black Flag fans still wearing the tatters of their original shirts, or the kid sewing a patch onto their school bag. It’s an album for the folk who thought their band would go on the Warped Tour one day, the people who now reconcile the boundaries of their day jobs with their desire to still have a mohawk. ‘Dial M For Meds’ is for a specific tribe which both Taking Meds and a single swathe of the punk community belong to. That’s not a bad thing, if you’re in that circle and have needed to check your work laptop into the cloakroom at the venue. For the older and younger punks, this album will drift past you like a gritty tumbleweed in the middle aged desert.

“I know it’s there ’cause I can taste it,” croons Sarkis on ‘Something Higher’, and while he might be talking about the innate hope that you’ll be the one that breaks out of the small town, he could well be discussing his fame as well. Taking Meds are a hair’s breadth away from being a name you see on big billings rather than just muttered by hipsters, so long as the show is aimed at those who need to schedule babysitters. Their complete confidence in their identity will take them far and spread their lack of cool far further than their small town mentality would have them believe. 


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