Gnarwolves self titled debut album was half an hour of skate punk fun. Three years on and this, their second album Outsiders is, well, half an hour of skate punk fun. For the most part. There’s evidence of some musical progression here, most notably from the brilliantly knowingly named ‘Channeling Brian Molko’, which mainlines the melody of Placebo‘s classic ‘Nancy Boy’ into an equally stripped back punk shape, but less acerbic and more straightforward. ‘Paint Me a Martyr’, despite being built around the same breakneck drums, feels weirdly slow. It’s more than 200 BPM and less than three minutes long but somehow the relatively gentle strums and the drawn out vocals make it outstay its welcome by about half its running time.
Elsewhere, ‘Argument’ slows things down again but more successfully, channeling Fugazi rather than early Blink 182. Lyrically it paints a recurring picture of apathy and general frustration: “If I can’t do anything right/What the fuck am I supposed to do now?” is echoed in the following track ‘The Comedown Song”s “Fuck your party, I’m sleeping in”. There’s a lot of the classic punk apathy-as-rebellion in Outsiders, from the opening “I was born in a straitjacket” to the closing track ‘Shut Up’. The closer is significant not just as the slowest and longest song Gnarwolves have released so far, but also the most lyrically accomplished. It’s a solid illustration of a particular kind of misery. Take the second verse: “You’re staring quite the same/We haven’t spoken for an hour/Just stood here smoking in the rain” says more in three lines than most daft skate punk bands can manage across an entire album.
Outsiders, then, is a mixed bag of an album. It’s a snapshot of a band in transition, trying to move beyond their core sound to something more (shudder) mature, but still wanting to make ceilings drip with sweat. The lasting impression is one of a record that you can and should throw yourself around to, but also keep an eye on what Gnarwolves do next. Outsiders is a solid record rather than an great one, but the ideas and ambition here demonstrate that the band are here to stay.
Outsiders is out now.