Stud Count, Stud Count (Smartpunk Records, 2022)

First tipped to Philly’s Stud Count in these very pages, that “forthcoming debut LP” is here now and lemme tell ya, friends, it’s a ripper.

Formed at the tail end of the “before times” known as 2019, the band fuses hardcore, punk, and pop with stunning ease.

The result, you ask? One of the best albums of the year. 

Composed of members of Drill Sergeant, The Dividing Line, Academy Order, and Flouride; it’s easy to imagine the listener being taken aback upon listening their Smartpunk Records, self-titled release. Citing The Wipers as an influence all but assured I’ll be gleefully on board but the band also points to Garbage and Hüsker Dü as signposts. While certainly apt, there’s far more going on here worth mentioning.

I hear everything from their hometown heroes Dark Thoughts to The Soviettes, and Red Dons. Managing to meld the manic energy of Dirtnap Records and ‘77 punk with the earworm sensibilities of modern pop-punk, Stud Count approach hardcore with a bubblegum sensibility, unafraid to tread where their other bands haven’t. 

One look at the runtime and you’re already peaking at their long established hardcore punk bonafides. A breezy dozen songs clips by just north of 20 minutes. Boasting countless sweetly addictive choruses and guitar histrionics, the band wisely keeps the proceedings short, taut, and impossibly punchy. 

Opener “The Way I Walk” is the perfect intro to the band’s instantly unique approach, blending tightwire rhythms and treble-heavy guitars to the urgency of hardcore units like Exit Order and C.H.E.W. Immediately notable are the vocals, which comprise the year’s catchiest performance to date.

Vacillating between urgent and impossibly sweet, it’s an enthralling performance from the jump. Ditto for follow up track “Pleasure Center," which sports a deeply thumping drum sound and killer backing vocals that call to mind Fastbacks. 

Elsewhere, the highwater marks abound. “Talkin’ 2 You” throws its hat into the conversation for the year’s most addictive chorus. Pardon the timeline skewering, but it sounds as if Tsunami Bomb grew up on the Marked Men and their Denton acolytes. Whether intentional or not, the song ending lyrical bent “do what I like and I like what I do…” calls to mind the altruistic icon Marilyn Monroe. Flirting with legends here, my friends. 

“Big Fish” sports a sharp and taut guitar riff that plays nearly as big as the chorus melody itself. Stud Count make the entire proceedings sound fucking huge on this one. “Push” bookends a leathery bass sound that builds quickly from a moody intro into a propulsive and driving act of desperate punk. 

“Maniacal Laughter” and late album track “Deicacy” are equally fucking rippers that flex the band’s considerable hardcore chops, the former repeating the song title seemingly ad nauseam. Shy of a minute, the latter is razor blades masquerading as candy. It’s pop-punk perfection.

As a counterpoint to the aforementioned Bouncing Souls minded title, the echoey follow up “Willow” is a beautifully breezy slab of melancholia that shows they’ve spent time considering sequencing, as well. 

Photo: Matt Bender

The album closer, “Avenue,” is tremendous. At just shy of three minutes, it’s a veritable epic by the band’s standards. They manage more across those minutes than most do across an album. The call and response desperation feels as indebted to crust favorites Signal Lost as it is to Red Dons/The Observers. Though it’s not necessarily divided into movements, the well constructed end is but an appetite whetted for whatever comes next.

Get this now. 

Get It

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