Aye Nako and the Rise of Queer Punk
In the post-Donald Trump election era of America, like-minded music fans wondered who would be the next punk band to step into the anti-establishment limelight — just as bands like the Dead Kennedys and Anti-Flag have done in the past. Anti-political punk has been a staple of the genre since the Reagan and Nixon eras, but as Donald Trump took office, people expected a punk revival of sorts. If anything along these lines has occurred, one could make the argument that it has been in rap music, as evinced by Kendrick Lamar and his critically acclaimed new record Damn. Punk music today tends to focus on not just political leaders but also the issues that they tend to avoid or create laws to prevent. The LGBTQ community, for example, has found a niche in punk music, with the popularity of bands such as PWR BTTM, G.L.O.S.S and even Against Me! that spread positive messages about issues, while building a safe space and sanctuary for the community.
Aye Nako can be identified in this sub-genre of queer punk. Hailing from New York City, Aye Nako have been around since 2010. With two releases previously, Unleash Yourself and The Blackest Eye, Aye Nako have now put out their first full-length with second vocalist Jade Payne joining the fray. Before her, it was just Mars Dixon performing vocals, but Payne adds a second dimension to the band that makes them that much more over-the-top.
Here on Silver Haze, the songs by Payne are very reminiscent to Sleater-Kinney in the fact that they are beautifully crafted rock songs that have punk attitudes while also boasting complex arrangements. Compared to other punk bands, Aye Nako are not just using power chords to proclaim that they are angry. Even a song like the opening intro “We’re Different Now” has influences from hip-hop in its setup, which establishes the album in a way where the listener has no idea what is coming next. Certain sub-genres appear very often, as “Half Dome” has shades of surf rock in its intro with empowering drums. The guitar riff follows the vocals along the entirety of the song, which creates a catchy indie rock atmosphere. “Nightcrawler” and “Particle Mace” show the well-rounded features of Payne’s talents. She can go from evoking the sound of the Breeders to that of Sleater-Kinney in her vocals and guitar work. This band is very technical in their dynamics, but this is covered by a slacker vibe that is reminiscent of Pavement. Lyrics in “Particle Mace,” such as, “I guess there’s only one kind of truth / my love’s kindled in solitude,” show the loneliness a queer person of color can feel at times. This theme carries on throughout the album as the issues are always brought up in these goofy indie rock songs, not necessarily to be taken seriously, but pondered over as one listens to the catchy indie rock that Aye Nako are putting out.
Silver Haze is an energetic punk rock record that is very technical in terms of its musical progressions. Songs like “Nothing Nice” highlight the up-and-down chord progressions the band cycles through, while other songs can throw up very impressive arrangements of background vocals. The guitar work is almost twinkly or mathy, but follows the vocals closely enough to easily fit within the songs and never feel haphazard or random as can be the case with some math rock bands. The guitar work alone is worth the listen on this record.