The alternative punk rock genre has been thriving for years now, with such acts like Fucked Up and Against Me! becoming fore-front players in that scene. However, bands in the genre happen to have very high moments, but do not seem to get over with everyone. Take Against Me!, for example. Their latest release, White Crosses, went over pretty well with critics, but true fans trashed it as pop rock garbage.
Why would I start a review like this? Well, in 2009, New York quintet Polar Bear Club released their great sophomore album Chasing Hamburg, and was loved by both critics and fans alike. I can say that I have listened to their first single, and incredibly creative music video for Living Saints a lot in the past two years. Now, Polar Bear Club climbs out of hibernation (way to easy…) and delivers their new LP, Clash Battle Guilt Pride, which successfully puts the band in the post-punk conversation. And it seems like they can really win with this release.
Clash Battle Guilt Pride starts with “Pawner,” which starts as a soft rock ballad, but at moments flips a hardcore switch and fills the song with substantial material. “Killin’ It” and “Screams in Caves” are both anthematic post punk gold. “I’ll Never Leave New York” has lyrics that sound as lead vocalist Jimmy Stadt was singing the lyrics right from a personal journal of his. “Religion on the Radio” sounds like an early 1990′s Green Day B-Side, which some people might find it awful, but they turned it around and made it one of the better tracks on the album.
The biggest success of the LP is vocalist Jimmy Stadt. His gnarly growl in the faster songs helps form some great punk songs. What makes Jimmy stand out though is the slower songs. Both “Pawner” and “Slow Roam” shows how much Stadt can switch his screaming roar to a faint growl. The whole album could’ve been told in his normal style, but he instead switches it up to help keep CBGP fresh.
However, there is one flaw to the album, and that is that most of the songs are the typical 4/4, 140 BPM jams. As much as I like those, I wouldn’t mind changing it up more than they did (only about three of the twelve songs are different). This might sound a bit hypocritical, but having Stadt stretch his talents is great. I just wish he would do it more.
Clash Battle Guilt Pride is a triumph in the post-punk genre. Each track feels new in sound, but almost nostalgic in spirit. The tracks piece together in a way that will sound great live, which if their stints on the Warped Tour have proved anything, it will be an incredible show. Polar Bear Club has always been on my radar, but with Clash Battle Guilt Pride, it’s finally good to say that they have arrived. They’re not re-inventing the genre, just re-introducing it to you.
Final Grade: A-
Go Download: “Killin’ It”