With Napa Asylum Sic Alps have created arguably the first genuine punk album of the year.
The San Francisco band of Mike Donovan and Matt Hartman, complete with extra guitars and drums from Noel von Harmonson, have stubbornly stuck with their eight track recorder to achieve the correct punk DIY feel. They have also served up an impressive 22 tracks, mostly around the one to three minute mark, to provide a sense of value for money that Joe Strummer would have been proud.
There’s always been elements of the punk pioneers from the 60s counter culture in Sic Alps music and that’s particularly the case on Napa Asylum, their fourth album. With its fuzzed up 60s melodies, it’s at times reminiscent of the likes of The Deviants, who featured on last year’s excellent Dirty Water punk pioneers compilation from Future Noise Music’s punk label Year Zero.
There’s a lot of similarities with Guided By Voices as well, melodic lo-fi pop delivered in tight, short bursts. But for our money Napa Asylum could be perhaps best described as Deerhunter without the slick production or perhaps even Wavves, but with more melody and likability.
Not all tracks work, but like one liners from a good comedian, there’s so many of them that it doesn’t matter. Wait a while and a gem will soon emerge.
Among the best are a run of tracks in the first half from the surf punk of ‘Cement Surfboard’ through to ‘Zeppo Epp,’ including the album’s standout ‘Saint Peter Writes His Book’.
But others such as (the overlong by Sic Alps standards) ‘Trip Train’ and the thoroughly unpleasant ‘My My Lai’ lack the melody and garage punk chic of this album’s many other highlights.
Also , the lo-fi doesn’t always work. The bass can judder in the ears at time. But overall this is a giddy, heady slice of fuzzed up garage rock with some welcome punk attitude.
by Joe Lepper