Including members of arguably the two most prominent hardcore bands of the last decade or so, Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile, you’d be forgiven for expecting a similarly cutting-edge hardcore sound from Angel Du$t, but that is far from the reality. The aesthetic, attitude and live performance reflects that of their hardcore background, but sonically they are perhaps the most fun rock and roll band you’re likely to hear in 2019. This is about as unpretentious as rock music can get, unashamedly cliché at times, yet all the better for it, Angel Du$t occupy a unique spot in the world of modern rock music. Catchy and hook-laden, every track on their latest work Pretty Buff is as energetic and life-affirming as the last.
A four-track EP, Lil Buff, preluded the album in late January and featured four of the album tracks, giving a telling flavour of what was to come. Produced by the prolific Will Yip, who seemingly has a hand in every significant hardcore release in recent years, once again sees everything he touches turning to gold as Pretty Buff appears to epitomise what Angel Du$t have been building towards in their previous two releases, A.D. and Rock the Fuck on Forever (also produced by Yip) — loud and fun rock music. But Angel Du$t represent more than that, they are an enigma of the scene, and no one sounds quite like them. While previous releases lent more room for their hardcore influences, Pretty Buff features all sung vocals and riffs that could never have possibly featured on the works of the members’ other bands.
After signing with Roadrunner last year, Pretty Buff is their first full length album on the label, and first track, ‘No Fair’, feels much like a mission statement for the band, hitting every characteristic that sets them apart from the others. Clocking in at under two minutes in length (no song exceeds three minutes), the melodies are thrust centre stage and its poppy lyricism would be more at home in an 80s classic rock album than a Trapped Under Ice LP. Also present is a melodic guitar solo, an increasingly rare entity in modern rock music but one still valued highly by this group of punk rock upstarts as they are happily dotted throughout the album.
Second track ‘Big Ass Love’, the lead single of the album and opener on Lil Buff, is what could be called a typical Angel Du$t song and perhaps takes their ideals to the extreme, the lyrics are simple and meaningless but catchy and loud, leaving a lasting impression as a song no other band could likely have produced without it sounding altogether bad. This is symptomatic of the album — all the ingredients of the band are really quite contradictory when written down, but put together as well as they are here leaves an album of thirteen very good songs.
The only slight reprieve in the album’s boundless energy comes in the form of ‘Light Blue’, which again exemplifies the contradictory nature of the band, as the grungey lead vocal delivery is balanced by a sunny harmony and the light acoustic riff is accompanied by a stellar bassline. This track is a highlight of the album, a display of the band’s talents that suggests the upward trajectory of the band is only going to continue.
The duality of ‘Bang My Drum’ followed by ‘Let Me Know’ again presents the talent on display on Pretty Buff, as Yip’s production comes into its own with layers of instrumentation still retaining the simplicity of the classic rock formula. The former features a saxophone solo, which seems ridiculous given their hardcore background, and yet fits into the Angel Du$t canon like it should, just another weapon in the arsenal of fun that is Pretty Buff.
As the final track ‘Five’ fades out, a characteristically brilliant track of a triumphant third album, it is clear this album has appeal far beyond that of its musical predecessors — Angel Du$t make loud and fun punk rock music and do it very well, and Pretty Buff sees them fulfil their abundant potential as a band, and will demand heavy rotation long into the summer months.