Strangers with Guns are some lads from Dublin that make grunge music. Infusing the sounds of the Melvins, Stone Temple Pilots, Fu Manchu, Nirvana…etc., they deliver exactly the juice you’d expect from that blend. Degenerate Art is the band’s debut album and the dozen songs could be summed up by big-wave bass lines, uniformed distortion and laid-back vocal delivery. Any one of these tunes could make the cut for a D.I.Y skateboarding video straight from the 90s.
You get a perfect taste of this punch with the opening track “Now Wait For Last Year.” The thick sheet of distortion cuts through riding a poppin’ riff. The vocals are dipped in a delay and tone that echo the late Scott Weiland’s performances through megaphones. Much in the Nirvana way-of-song; these tracks startup, roll and end. They are short, sweet and don’t tend to deviate much from the initial groove.
“Spaceman” comes on through after the opening track to reinforce the same points. The band digs cruising on big waves. The drumming is solid and keeps your neck locked in pocket. The Fu Manchu influence on the vocal delivery is super apparent and rad in this song as well. It sounds like this could be an early-years Fu demo. Although the vocal style remains consistent throughout the majority of the album, there are some songs that flex a different sound. “Monkey King” had me thinking these guys were from the Southern U.S.A with how sly the twang was.
After a few songs you’re bound to bounce to the same groove twice. There is an element to this album that is too cohesive in tones, writing and singing. In the same way that bands like AC/DC seem to follow a certain formula, Strangers with Guns seem to be locked on to the same tracks. It all depends on how much you could stretch your dollar on this one. If you absolutely dig the vibe, then fret not because that vibe is what you’ll get front to back. In terms of dynamics, the flow of the river is steady and calm. Not many changes in pace, intensity or style. However, there are obviously some exceptions to this vague critique.
“Problem is You” ironically counters the point I just made. Although the song kind of stumbles into the groove, it rides out on a different horse than it rode in on. The song escalates from a slow burn, covered in distortion, to an up-tempo jive that is also covered in distortion. “Never Thought of the Money” is a mean wild west sounding acoustic mood. Unlike any other song on the album, this one is dialled way the fuck back and slides right through you as unceremoniously as the winning bullet in a quick draw shoot-out. The track is easily my favourite mood in the album as it comes late as a great break from the otherwise distortion-heavy trip. You got a lot of the same on this record, and then some. All of it being perfectly pocketed grunge vibes.
Written by Ben Cornel
*edited by Mike Milito