Fast, raw, power punk-rock
Although labeling a band as “punk” rarely advances the understanding of a group, any proper description of Amyl and The Sniffers would have to start there. On their eponymous first, full-length album, they dabble in a few subgenres that, if mentioned, might provide a clearer picture, but Amyl and The Sniffers prefers simplicity. They wear their punk-rock ethos on their sleeve throughout all eleven songs, only one of which lasts longer than four minutes. It is a speedy, uncluttered collection, and when lead singer Amy Taylor can catch her breath, it contains as much screaming as blistering guitar work.
The band does not lack musical competence. They choose to make their authenticity into its own instrument. “Starfire 500” opens with a crunchy if basic, chord progression that is immediately joined by the rhythm section. Perhaps to build anticipation, or maybe to allow guitarist Dec Martens a sharp descending run over the main riff, or just a middle-finger directed at convention—either way—vocals don’t enter until two minutes into a song that only runs three and a half. “Gacked On Anger,” brakes the tempo with a clipped, metallic sounding lead, yet the fire remains with Taylor’s voice veering into a yell, “I don’t have a house, I can’t pay the rent.”
Lyrics are direct throughout the album and the band almost always opts for direct over subtle in their diction and delivery. Listeners who come across a song title like “GFY” will probably understand the aim of the song without having to hear it. Taylor avoids any confusion, peppering profanity and singing “Punch one, punch two, punch three/ I don’t like you and you don’t like me.”
“Angel” is one of the tracks on which the instrumentation slows down and the overall tone is less frenetic. Martens and Taylor carry the tune, providing a surf-rock infused motif and lyrics about a failed relationship delivered more solemnly than angrily. “Control” also contains evidence that Amyl and The Sniffers have done their musical homework and are influenced by other genres. Based around what might be best described as a blues shuffle soaked in punk angst, the rapid pulsating bass pushes the song in between the distorted chords of the chorus, punctuated by a series of grunts and shrieks.
Both “Got You” and “Shake Ya” return to variations of the rising and falling structure of the first track. Even if the hearts of the songs aren’t unique, they each have their own distinctions: “Shake Ya” features a memorable guitar solo and more than a hint of Black Sabbath creep and on “Got You,” Taylor is her most melodic.
Amyl and The Sniffers saves its longest song, “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled),” and it’s best verse-to-chorus change for last. The finale runs through several guitar tones on a versatile solo, while Taylor likens herself to a discarded dog. Amyl and The Sniffers don’t hide their influences and they aren’t breaking any new ground with this album. It is strong, has some great songs and a couple of stellar moments. Whether the band can, or wants to explore beyond their roots is an answer waiting in their next offering. Lovers of gritty, forcible and genuine rock will be satisfied with this debut.