Release Date: June 3rd, 2015
Label: Mint Records
Things ain’t that tough this summer — not when you have great music like ‘I Get The Feeling Central’ to listen to. It’s tough, in fact, not to love this record. It’s joyous without being cloying, it’s grungy without being morose, it has beauty without the sentimentality, and it has a punk attitude without spitting you in the eye.
There’s a uniform vibe throughout – a frolicking, kick-out-the-jams, Saturday night spirit – but that vibe comes in various forms. “50 Girls 50” kicks off the album with rolling drums and simple guitar chords. It’s a Ramones-style party song. But you don’t get a chance to settle in because on the very next song they change it up completely. On “Snakes & Ladders” singer Jarrett Samson cranks up his falsetto in a glam-tinged tune that has a grungy bass-line and fuzzed-out guitars. Then on the third track, “The Gutter Lemon”, it is all-out speedy punk, with the spit and venom to go along with it.
There are some ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ on “Castigation” and there’s a leisurely, slacker pace to “Flamenco Wiccan”, but for the most part the band does not ease up on the gas pedal, maintaining a high energy level throughout. Along the way Samson displays some gymnastic vocal moves as he deftly shifts from soft pop crooner (“Flotsam”) to mysterious harbinger of a dark future (“New Orleans Square”) and to punk rock snarler (“The Gutter Lemon”). The vocal section is rounded out nicely with back-up singing of Penny Clark, who also impresses by taking the front mike on the ’60s spy/garage number “‘Walk!'”
Tough Age are masters of pacing and so it comes as no surprise that they close out the record with a stunning one-two punch. “Guilt” is a slow-to-medium tempo soft psych song with mournful, atmospheric backing notes. Samson intones “Someone’s in my thoughts again” repeatedly and with an increasingly sinister edge. Finally, the internal battle is too much as he barks out “… get fucked”. Then all of the elements of the album seem to coalesce on the standout title track. Vocally, Samson outdoes himself with a quirky glammed-out Donovan delivery. The song is a buoyant work of power pop, but it has more in common with the late ’60s San Francisco scene than the more slickly produced dreck that came later.
Tough Age are often billed as a punk band, which would suggest they are young, naïve and wilful. They’re not. They are veterans and it shows. Every move here is calculated down to the last detail. They know how to get in your face without totally pissing you off. They know how to evoke the sounds of the past without being derivative or trite. They know how to entertain you without you knowing that they are even trying. This may sound manipulative, but it isn’t really. The emotional impact is real. The sense of fun is real. The love of the music is real. Tough Age may be selling you a musical product but they are not selling their souls to anyone.