(Self-released, digital download)
Kids these days.
As a product of Burlington’s punk and hardcore scene in the 1990s, I have a soft spot for the aggro wailings emanating from the local teenage wasteland (OK, I never really looked the part, but I wore out my Jesus Nut and 12 Times Over tapes back in the day). But of all the local scenes, that of high school punk and hardcore is among the most difficult to follow. For one thing, in a musicscape dominated by bars and nightclubs, all-ages gigs are relatively few and far between. When your mom has to drop you off at a show, that’s an issue. Further complicating the matter is the insular nature of the music in general. It’s outsider music, made for and by misfits, freaks and geeks who typically want to avoid attracting attention, lest they be stuffed in a locker or given a swirlie. Man, high school sucks.
There is a third and perhaps more critical issue at play here. Namely, most high school bands are borderline unlistenable. Generally, this is through no fault of their own. Like a fawn clumsily learning to walk, young musicians just need time and practice to find their footing. But there are exceptions to every rule. And currently, a Williston punk trio named Problem Child is one of them.
The band’s debut full-length, Restless When Idle, plays like a throwback to this reviewer’s own halcyon days spent getting tinnitus at 242 Main. Had they existed in 1995, Problem Child likely would have been among my favorite local bands, their songs included on mixtapes alongside Green Day, Operation Ivy and the Queers. Even now, they’re quickly achieving regular rotation in my grown-up iTunes library.
It’s true of most art, but the best punk music is a distillation of raw emotion. Part of the reason the genre has long resonated with youth culture is its presentation of unfiltered angst. Punk is simple, direct and aggressive, rarely bogged down with precious metaphors or overly intimate exposition. In that respect, Problem Child represent all that is good about punk rock. From guitarist and front man Evan Engisch’s Billy Joe Armstrong-esque lazy sneer to Kevin Wilkinson’s romping bass and Matt Decker’s punishing drum work, the band divines the ragged essence of punk attitude.
Problem Child play an all-ages show at the Monkey House in Winooski on Saturday, December 15, with the Murder Weapon, Trapper Keeper and the Outsiders PBR. Restless When Idle is available for free download at problemchildvt.bandcamp.com.