On Confines of Life, the third studio album from California punk band NEIGHBORHOOD BRATS, the band dives head-first into songs about environmental crisis, systemic oppression, interpersonal/intrapersonal conflict, and the trappings of modern existence. Following blueprints of ‘77 punk, ‘80s hardcore and elements of post-punk, the diverse songwriting influences of vocalist Jenny Angelillo and guitarist George Rager are showcased throughout, putting the band in their element, while expanding on their original concept.
Recorded in February and March 2020 at Station House studio with Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer Mark Rains, the band had barely finished production when Los Angeles went into its initial shutdown in response to the incoming pandemic. Multiple 2020 tours were subsequently canceled as the music industry, and life in general, came to a standstill.
As live music faces challenges unlike any other in modern existence, the band looks forward to a time when they can safely return to the road. With Nick Aguilar (drums) and Mike West (bass), Neighborhood Brats stands at-the-ready. As their song goes… “We’ll Find You.”
Maybe it’s the endless pieces of soft, soothing music being described as ‘a soothing balm for the stresses of the pandemic age’, but don’t you sometimes find yourself wishing for a solid rock’n’roll record to cut to your core and send your fists soaring towards the sky? Okay, our moshpits may not extend much further than the faces in our living rooms right now, but goddamit, some of us really just want some punk rock to help us feel alive.
Here’s where Needles//Pins’ mighty fourth album comes in. From the surging rush of opener ‘Woe Is Us’ (sounds relatable), via the organ-drenched scuffle of ‘Winnipeg ‘03’ right through to anthemic closer ‘The Tyranny Of Comforts’, this is a record that takes your emotional concerns and bundles them up into sweet little packets of raw-throated, chest-swelling, moves-into-your-brain-and-never-leaves melody.
They’re self-aware too; by referencing Cap’n Jazz’s ‘Little Leagues’ in the opening verse to ‘A Rather Strained Apologetic’, they lay bare that in a less complicated era you might have been tempted to call their take on punk ‘emo’. Hey, come back – OK, it’s not a Jade Tree special, but it’s got the same gravel throated delivery and honeyed approach to melody that Blake Schwarzenbach delivered on ‘24 Hour Revenge Therapy’. Needles//Pins are equally indebted to classic Canadian powerpop like The Pointed Sticks – hell, 1979’s essential ‘Vancouver Complication’ comp feels as much of a reference here as ‘Boxcar’. They know their history, they know their craft, and they know their shit. If you’ve not been keeping count, this all adds up to ‘plenty to love’.
Of course you could just ignore everything I just wrote and listen for yourself. What you’ll find is a record that sounds simple on first listen, but offers more layers to peel back the more you listen. It’s comforting, it’s thrilling, it’s… well, it’s not a soothing balm, but it might just be what you need right now to pick you up off the floor and (as referenced on the aforementioned ‘Woe Is Us’) make you shake and shimmer. A future classic? Hell, why not? – Will Fitzpatrick