The Upshot: Weaving giddy harmonies around mordant observations, the Boston band makes a feel good album about terrible times
By JENNIFER KELLY
The Bent Shapes, out of Boston, make jangly, jittery, overeducated pop punk about 20-something anomie. Their second full-length takes its name from a line in “To Tramps” a 19th century tract by anarchist leader Lucy Parsons, which is dedicated to “the unemployed, the disinherited and miserable.” And, indeed, these ten songs comprise an illustrated guide to early-career failure – the move back home (“New Starts in Old Dominions”), the unusable advanced degrees (“Realization Hits”) and the fruitless search for meaning (“86’d in 03”). And yet, they do so with such bravado, such fizzy fuzzed-out style and black humor, that the sting is taken away.
The Bent Shapes are currently a four-piece, built around their original core of Ben Potrykus and Andy Sadoway, but augmented this time with additional guitarist Luke Brandfon and bassist Jenny Mudarri. It is not radically different from 2014’s Feels Weird, though perhaps a bit more fluidly pop, a bit less bristly and percussive. Among recent bands, maybe the best reference is the Soft Pack, whom they match in frenetic energy and hookiness but exceed in brainy overcomplication. Looking further back, I’d say the Violent Femmes and, maybe, first-album Feelies set the template, in nervy, hyperverbal, out-of-comfort-zone angst that nonetheless rocks the house. This is a band, after all, good enough at grammar to write a song about “Intransitive Verbs,” and well-read enough to credit Guy DeBord, John Berryman, Jalal Al-Din and Darby Crash as lyrical influences.
Smart as they are, the Bent Shapes wear it lightly, thrashing and cracking wise, double-strumming guitar licks and weaving giddy harmonies around mordant observations. This is a feel good album about terrible times, an unexpectedly successful search, as we hear in “Béton Brut,” for a “bright spot in a sickening century.”
DOWNLOAD: “New Starts in Old Dominions”