BY STEVE WILSON
Can’t Get Past the Lips, a deliciously dim/smart blast of pop-punk delivered by the Oklahoma band Broncho, first dropped in 2011. But for a band that only recently started gigging outside of the Great Plains corridor, this will still be news for many of you.
From the opening chords of “Pick a Fight,” Bronco establishes their punk lineage. Sounding like an exact cross between Wire and the Vibrators, they rocket forth with a cheeky song about scene sniveling. Ryan Lindsey sounds at once irritated and bored as the band Greek choruses “your girlfriend’s lame.”
Lindsey establishes his identity immediately. He has the uncanny ability to evoke British punk singers without lapsing into Billy Joe Armstrong’s absurd patois. He reminds of several Peters (Shelley, Perrett, Doherty) – even occasionally of a Yank Joe Strummer, even more bored with the U.S.A.
The pace of Lips is mostly Ramones (or early Replacements) relentless over the course of the album’s ten song, twenty-minute sprint. “I Don’t Want to Be Social” is mid-tempo, offering Lindsey’s petulant take on voluntary isolation. His anxious sense of everyday aggro is nicely conveyed in the surf-powered “Record Store” (‘don’t wanna see you in my record store’).
Lindsey’s lyrics are mostly off-hand, conversational snippets and asides morphed into songs. Most of them are tellingly comic, although on a song like “Losers,” a minor key rant, he can go dark when he needs to.
“Psychiatrist” is hilarious, Lindsey’s wry advice reminiscent of the Modern Lovers, drummer Nathan Price providing little Keith Moon explosions on the breaks of the chorus. There’s a Heartbreakers (think Thunders, not Petty) drive to “Blown Fuse,” a snappy little rocker about a girl who wont’ take ‘slow’ for an answer.
Desire compels Lindsey to “go south,” on the album closing title track, but he “Can’t Get Past the Lips,” the band lurching, stumbling, on the verge of collapse, but never losing the rock.
Broncho’s ensemble genius is in their ability to sometimes sound as tight at the Buzzcocks, other times as louche as the Libertines. Among American contemporaries, perhaps Mickey (tighter) and the Impediments (looser), two bands with shared pop-punk proclivities come to mind as fellow travelers.
But Broncho has that indefinable thing that makes a band sound like a brand. Maybe it’s in the sting of guitarist Ben King’s succinct, Steve Diggle-like guitar lines, certainly it’s to do with Ryan Lindsey’s indelible vocal impression – whatever it is, something puts Broncho at the head of today’s pop-punk pack.
DOWNLOAD: “Pick A Fight,” “Losers,” “Can’t Get Past the Lips”