Reviews

Dark Thoughts, Must Be Nice (Stupid Bag Records/Drunken Sailor Records, 2020)

Third (album) verse. Same as the first. I’ve long thought that if you don’t like the Ramones, you don’t like music. I’m extending that same sentiment to anyone not hopelessly bouncing around their room when this band hits the turntable.

Once again proving the 2019 conversation isn’t yet over, another superlative LP slides under the decade’s deadline. Here to render your year end listicles obsolete are West Philly punks Dark Thoughts. No Echo sufficiently whetted appetites back in October when reviewing the dropped lead single, “Do You Dream” b/w non-album track “It’s Too Late.”

Said 7” is available via Peterwalkee Records and, as advertised, the full-length is now street ready. Still somewhat hot on the heels of last year’s superlative long-player comes Must Be Nice. Released Stateside via Stupid Bag Records, the UK handling comes courtesy of Drunken Sailor Records. 

Countless plays of this fittingly titled album finds the mind boggled, marveling at the seemingly bottomless well of great tunes Dark Thoughts has been pulling from since their inception. Starting with their fully realized S/T 2016 debut, the band has essentially changed nothing about their formula and still manage impossibly catchy hooks.

Economical, melodic, and taut, one could imagine the riffs and melodies they leave on the cutting room floor would be the highlights of most bands discographies.

Dark Thoughts are on a dizzyingly perfect run of albums that’s clearly at its apex, yet I wouldn’t be shocked were they to somehow up the ante in 2021. This go round, the rules are the same… infectious melodies, buzzsaw guitars, trimmed fat, and a the ever present absence of pretense. Redundant observations aside, they’ve hit this one into the deep seats, sitting alongside the best work of some heavy hitters.

Though sonically dissimilar, Must Be Nice approaches the majesty of The Marked Men’s Fix My Brain, The Ergs’ Dorkrockcorkrod, or Guitar Romantic by the forever missed Exploding Hearts.

Subsequent and endless relistens continue to reveal their song craft genius but you’ll be humming these songs before you’ve finished them the first time. Somewhere in another and far more just universe, bands like this or the puzzlingly monikered The Windowsill would rule the FM waves with their infectious take on pop punk. Until then, a little digging will yield you endless rewards. 

Photo: Paayarazzi

They’ve perfected what I like to call "bubblegum hardcore." Marrying blazing Ramones-core to the frenetic energy of first wave USHC, Dark Thoughts excel at any tempo. From the mid-paced and lovelorn ache of “Scan the Radio” to the Strummer-esque siren guitar riff that launches “I Can’t Remember,” the entire LP is an infectious sugar rush. The former features a so dumb it’s brilliant “ooh, ooh, ooh, ohh” that feels cribbed from a lost session for Rocket to Russia.

The late album double date of “Where Did You Come From” and “Imaginary Lines” is pop-punk perfection equal parts "53rd and 3rd" and late '80s East Bay. The title track, a veritable epic by their standard commitment to brevity, is a stunner. With guest vocals from one Cynthia Schemmer, it plays like its own double sided single as it shifts from a dead stop into an even more glorious melody and even manages some, dare I say it, moodiness.

Shout out to Kyle Gilbride of Wherever Audio, whose impeccable ear for this sound gives the proceedings the requisite amount of snarl and candy coating. 

The band is squeezing some shows between holiday bookends, playing Lancaster, NYC, and Philly in December 28th, 29th, and 31st respectively. Their New Years extravaganza features none other than The Smarthearts, whose On the Line is full stop one of the year’s best records in any genre. 2020 will find them on a winter tour and I’ve already bought my seat at the table for when they roll through Baltimore. 

Must be nice to be this fucking good. 

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