(Witty Banter Records, CD, digital download)
Even if you’re not a fan of punk rock, it’s hard not to at least appreciate its no-frills aesthetic. In Burlington, few bands represent punk’s tattered appeal quite like Y69, who have been bearing the genre’s flickering torch for an improbable nine years. The trio has recently unleashed its latest album, We’ve Got Problems, recorded at Low Tech Studios in November 2009 and released on Rhode Island’s Witty Banter Records. While it may fly under the radar of many local music fans, the record is an apt reminder that punk rock is alive and well in Vermont.
The disc begins with a fist-pumping ode to the band’s hometown, “Queen City.” The song finds Y69 exploring the seedier, and thus more enjoyable, facets of Burlington nightlife. “Just a typical Friday night / Jeanette is bouncing and she’s ready to fight. / Walk right in with no proof of age / Grab my pitcher and head to the stage,” sings guitarist and vocalist Glen Woytowich before the band joins him in a rousing chorus of “Queen City! Whoa-oh!” It is a straight-ahead punk anthem, much like the fare that makes up the bulk of the band’s 2008 effort, Because We’re Low. Y69 largely stick to a similar formula here, relying on visceral sneer tempered with big, hooky sing-along choruses.
By contrast, the next tune, “She Wanted More,” is melodically adventurous — at least for three-chord punk. Vocalist and bassist Chris Gibbo, whose throaty growl is reminiscent of both Operation Ivy’s Tim Armstrong and Less Than Jake’s Chris Demakes, proves a compelling front man. He also demonstrates that there are few things in music as oddly sweet as a punk-rock love song.
“Home School Whore,” believe it or not, is perhaps the album’s most musically sophisticated song — and one of only two that eclipse the three-minute mark. But the tune’s relative polish also highlights the band’s primary flaw, namely that drummer Greg Dusablon’s playing is often perilously loose — even for punk. Still, the song itself is aces, vaguely recalling Rancid’s “Ruby Soho.”
The other relative epic is the disc’s next-to-last song, “Buy Me a Beer,” in which a swaying, drunken waltz gives way to driving, fist-pumping rawk. It’s a nice idea, and well executed at that, suggesting Y69 has the chops — at least when they’re in the mood — to pull off trickier arrangements. But then, that scowling indifference is part of what makes punk music so appealing to begin with.
We’ve Got Problems is available for free download from Witty Banter Records at www.myspace.com/wittybanterrecordsshane.