When I was 11 years old, I wanted to be a skateboarder. Being the perpetual klutz that I am, it was never meant to be. Like most kids my age, I made up for this by playing the addictively farfetched Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. Question Mark’s Inner Call is the EXACT kind of punk that would have been on the soundtrack to one of these games! Upon the first power-chord, I immediately had flashbacks of finally nailing a darkslide or immaturely changing the letters from H-O-R-S-E to S-H-I-T-H-E-A-D. Unfortunately, it works SO well as background music that it doesn’t stand out too much when heard on its own. Question Mark’s music is punk and by design should be abrasive and rabble-rousing, and yet paradoxically a lot of the songs go through one ear and out the other. Great for marathon couch potato sessions but not really the kind of music to inspire action and revolt.
It’s not that the band doesn’t play the part well. They are SO convincing as a California based, vintage skate-punk band that you might find it impossible to believe that this is their debut album and that they are actually from the Netherlands! Alas, that might be part of the problem. They’ve done such good research that their music is sometimes repetitive and unmemorable as a result. It’s dead-on accurate and will give you the adrenaline needed to keep you glued to your controller for the rest of the night. That said, good luck remembering many of the songs when you eventually turn the TV off.
The lack of diversity doesn’t make Inner Call a deal-breaker, as there are many punk albums in which every single song sounds the same. The album’s most glaring snafu is that it is too damn long! At 15 tracks, and 48-minutes long, it is exhausting! Try listening to it in one sitting and without getting distracted and you’ll see what I mean. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not your average, short attention spanned “millennial.” For one thing, I love double and even triple albums. The album just isn’t different enough on a tonal level to warrant that length. Besides the jovial “Moving south” and the slightly more sombre “Industry,” all the songs are similarly paced and sung.
That said it should be noted, when analyzed individually, the band members all nail many aspects of what makes punk great. Vocalist/drummer Dave Zand Scholten has the patented hardcore punk yell down pat and sounds like he means it, which is all the more impressive considering he shares the thankless job, with bassist Mathijs Vijge, of keeping the rhythm section endlessly speedy. By far, the most engaging member is guitarist Martin Kroeze, who despite the restrictions of the genre always manages to pull out a handful of distinct leads in every song. I often found myself still engaged with a song just because I wanted to know what he’d do next.
In the end, I think what Inner Call needs most of all is some editing. If Question Mark had cut everything to an EP, it would have been very strong. Songs like “Brickwall,” “Vultures,” “Moving south,” “Inner call,” “Leave them behind,” and “Industry” certainly would not have gotten lost in the shuffle. They are very much punk, but still full of ideas that could help the band distinguish themselves. Ultimately, they don’t just exist to make videogames better. Taken as they are, they could possibly conjure and inspire some images and memories of their own and maybe, just maybe, get you off your ass.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Mike Milito