Exactly when punk died is a much debated topic. Some would say that it only truly lived for three years, beteen 1976-78. Others would argue that The Clash kept the fire burning in the belly of the beast until their demise in 1982. Some, of course, have always deemed that the genre never actually died, bizarrely believing that the likes of Sum 41 or Blink 182 somehow fit the description. Granted, the likes of Minutemen and Fugazi made a commendable attempt to rebuild the dead punk rocker from various limbs and some of his darkest orifices, Bionic Man style, but somehow it never quite felt authentic enough for me to truly believe in a grand scale resurrection.
Sauna Youth clearly never saw the death warrant, though. Well, they couldn’t have, since they weren’t even born when the genre officially drew its last breath, but from this latest offering, their second, it would appear that they have located punk’s rotting corpse, slapped it, defibrillated it, set fire to it, thrown an ice bucket on it and kicked it relentlessly until it opened its weary, sneery eyes before descending on the band and instilling in them the spirit of 1977. Quite frankly, this is the most punk sounding punk record you’ll have heard in years.
It’s impossible, when listening to the brash, in your face ‘Monotony’, not to think of the similarly titled Buzzcocks track ‘Boredom’, which presumably this tune is a paean to. While there are nods to a true punk pioneer guitar genius, Link Wray, on the sinister sounding ‘Cosmos Seeker’, with its chord crunching concentration and vibrant energy. Those last two words could be applied to almost every one of these 14 tracks, save for the short intro, ‘End Loop’, and the two spoken word pieces here. Both of these moments provide a fascinating deviation from the norm and are quite delightful, but the better of the two is Jen “Ecke” Calleja‘s ‘(Taking A) Walk’, which lies somewhere between Patterson Hood’s ‘(untold pretties)’ musically and James Yorkston’s ‘Woozy With Cider’ poetically.
‘Distractions’ is a triumph in every respect, from the frantic rush of the metaphorical moshpit that dresses up thrilling numbers like ‘Modern Living’ or the blisteringly brilliant ‘The Bridge’, right down to the quirky and ambiguous photography of the band on the sleeve, and through to the no holds barred production. You can smell the sweat from here.
I tend to steer clear of using words like “essential” when reviewing music, but I’ll make an exception here, because it sounds to my ears like one of the most vital bursts of energy this side of the millennium. Trust me, it’s quite something.