After three or so years of sporadic DIY releases and raucous live shows, London punks Throwing Up have finally got around to releasing their debut full-length album, through Tim Burgess‘s O Genesis label. The perhaps unfortunately titled (in light of the band’s name) Over You is your classic high-energy, no-bullshit punk album, with Camille Bennett, Clare James Clare and Ben Rayner’s three-piece outfit racing through 11 songs in a little over 20 minutes; the longest track on the album barely approaches three minutes.
Though a British band, Throwing Up have a lot more in common with the American punk rock tradition than the British: they thrash out a fatter, warmer, chord-driven wall of sound rather than British punk’s cold, often-grating spikiness. Think Black Flag over Sex Pistols, Hole over Elastica – or Bleached over Savages, to put a more contemporary spin on it, though there’s more of a hardcore streak in Throwing Up than there is in the Clavin sisters’ output. Last year’s single Big Love shamelessly lifts its verse riff straight out of that classic American punk anthem, Blitzkrieg Bop, and there are several songs on the album that sound like Hole if Hole had switched out Courtney Love for someone with a much less powerful but far sweeter voice. Think Frances McKee of The Vaselines guesting on an early Green Day or Foo Fighters B-side, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what Throwing Up sound like.
Bennett’s voice is actually what provides Over You with a lot of its interest; it’s what sets Throwing Up apart from hundreds of other ramshackle punk rock bands taking shape in hundreds of garages across the world. The vocals are as insistent and urgent as you’d hope for a punk singer, but her angelic, butter-wouldn’t-melt tone is in uncomfortably compelling contrast with the rough ‘n’ ready noise of the music. The bloodcurdling scream she unleashes on the 43-second hardcore blast of When I Touch You is genuinely unsettling, precisely because it’s so unexpected.
Throwing Up’s DIY attitude, and the fact that the band’s most visible members are women, have prompted comparisons to ’90s riot grrrl bands such as Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. It’s an easy comparison to make, but it doesn’t quite stand up under examination; sonically there are similarities, but where the riot grrrl movement was explicitly political and feminist in its lyrical themes, Throwing Up’s songs are apolitical and largely revolve around love, loss and resulting bitterness. The second coming of Kathleen Hanna this ain’t, even if Bennett’s voice does bear some passing resemblance to the high priestess of riot grrrl.
This isn’t really the album’s detraction, though; it’s not like Throwing Up have ever set out any particular manifesto, pursuing music purely for the fun of it. Over You’s real weakness is its lack of variety. Taken individually, the tracks on the album are great: punchy, catchy, short enough that they don’t lose their interest, just lo-fi and distorted enough to have some bite. Highlights include the aforementioned Big Love, the hyperactive grunge-punk of Mother Knows Best, and the bittersweet Gone Again, its scratchy lo-fi guitar loop and loose drums striking exactly the right line between saccharine and sour.
The problem is that the other songs on the record seem like the band attempting to recreate the quality of these tracks by just sticking to the same formula – you come away from the album unable to remember which grungey, fast-paced chord progression belongs to which song. Having said this, Over You is a promising debut, and a welcome shot of adrenaline for anyone sick of all the identikit psych-pop bands that the industry seems to be churning out at the moment.