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Release Date: 15th March 2019

Record Label: Roadrunner Records

For Fans Of: Violent Femmes, The Beatles, Milk Teeth

What could be more punk than a punk band deciding NOT to release a punk album? Angel Du$t have done exactly that with album number three, Pretty Buff.

Forming as an outlet for making fun, lighter hardcore than their main projects, Baltimore band Angel Du$t is comprised of members from hardcore heavyweights Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile. Debut album AD boasted 12 tracks of approximately one minute long songs with very little breathing room in between, maintaining the energy and fun throughout in a style of hardcore more in line with the likes of Descendents or Minor Threat, but peppered with vocal hooks aplenty. The follow up release, Rock The Fuck On Forever, drifted somewhat from the hardcore label, incorporating elements of surf rock and grunge. Hell, the album even closes with a saxophone solo.

Pretty Buff continues this trend, venturing further away from the punk sound of earlier releases and the members’ other bands. Teaser single ‘Take Away The Pain’ encapsulated the new direction, featuring clean guitar and tambourine, suggesting to the public that the upcoming album would be considerably softer in terms of the instrumentation. Second single ‘Big Ass Love’ follows suit, being driven by acoustic guitar but this time with a full drum kit providing percussion – it seems strange to point that out, but for a band with such a strong hardcore background, the drum kit doesn’t feature as prominently on this record as one would expect. Despite this change in instrumentation, the track still maintains the energy and nature of previous Angel Du$t material; light hearted, fun and upbeat, all elements that would have attracted listeners to the band in the first place.

The album demonstrates a change in influences for the ‘super group’ if you will, or at least the varied influences have become more noticeable. 60s beat music comes to mind during some of the lead guitar pentatonic runs, and there is an abundance of “doo doos” and “yeah yeahs” scattered throughout. ‘Light Blue’ in particular recalls the sound of The Beatles’ early pop years, with guitars being gently strummed and brushes used on the kit, even the vocals take on a soothing tone as if singing a lullaby. The lyrics throughout adopt a 60s style too, with nearly every track being about a girl. Despite the upbeat nature of the music and vocal delivery, several songs seem to address the end of relationship, or the attempt to salvage a break up. Lines such as ‘gonna get you back/Into my arms’ or ‘I asked my baby girl to stay/She left and took my drum away’ exhibit the innocent, almost naïve lyricism of beat music, but the subject matter is at odds with the mood of the song.

When asked about the change in direction, vocalist and band leader Justice Tripp has stated that he wants to confuse people with Angel Du$t’s albums, by doing something unexpected with each release. When the band first came onto the scene, the poppy approach to hardcore was enough to disrupt the norm, but now it appears acoustic guitars and bongos are necessary to shock the audience. While the album is a great success, and displays incredible songwriting and understanding of pop music, it does make you wonder ‘what next?’ Is this representative of all future Angel Du$t material, or will the band constantly change to keep audiences on their toes? What will the band’s future shows be like too, mixing hardcore ragers with acoustic pop ballads? One thing is for certain: regardless of genre, Angel Du$t know how to write a good hook.

Rating: 8/10

Recommended Tracks: Light Blue, Bang My Drum, Want It All

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MNN MTT BILLY PADMORE

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