Warner has Green Day. Universal has New Found Glory. Sony has Good Charlotte. So I guess it was only a matter of time before Virgin/EMI followed suit and signed an aspiring 21st century punk band that they could mass market. Except here’s the thing. Where the aforementioned groups deal in that now most bastardised of musical genres – “pop-punk” (and in Good Charlotte’s case, arguably just “pop” with eyeliner) – The Explosion are, for the most part, punk rock. Which, frankly, is the only type of punk there is. End of.
The Explosion set out their stall with the, erm, explosive, sub-two minute opener Deliver Us. The drums thump at breakneck speed, the bass is lost within a maelstrom of early Clash guitars, while Matt Hock’s vocals (for this song only) sound like a more rabid Johnny Rotten. Filthy Insane keeps up the good work with its “this is filthy, this is f**king insane” refrain that leads into what is clearly an Explosion calling card – the football terrace-style, fist-pumping, shout-along chorus. Sham 69 would be proud…
The remaining 10, all less than four minute-long tracks, stick to this template of riotous punk guitars, hyperactive drumming and adrenalised choruses. It all goes by in a bit of a whirr and is not the sort of thing to listen to when you’ve got a headache. When The Explosion stick to the louder settings on their amps it has to be said that they’re very good. Besides the opening two tracks, the supercharged, repetitive and downright heavy pogo-dom of Go Blank and Hollywood Sign stand out as old skool ball-breakers, albeit with a glossy studio production.
Things get a little unstuck when they try to compete on Green Day’s turf in We All Fall Down, Heavyweight and Grace, although there’s enough Ramones-style, bubblegum shtick in the melodies of the latter for them to get away with it. Just.
Lyrically, The Explosion are intent on rebellious statements about American culture and authority. “There’s poison in the boys in blue / Corruption, greed and feud are all I see” (Here I Am) and “I’m so ashamed / Don’t make martyrs out of us” (on Bush’s anti-terrorism malarkey in Atrocity) are typical examples. Some may find inspiration in their political diatribes but when they complain that “there’s no revolution any more” it’s hard to believe that Black Tape is going to start one.
Nevertheless, respect is due to The Explosion for resisting the temptation to soften their sound (and their message) now that they’re on a major record label. Black Tape may not be strong enough to set the world alight but it’ll certainly keep The Explosion’s fire burning.