I am a hardcore sucker for the synth keyboard. I like to say it all started when I was a kid, maybe five years old, and heard “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears while driving in the family car. Needless to say, when I saw that Van Dammes had vocalist Markus Kujawa playing synths, and that the longest song on their latest release Vild Days EP was two minutes and thirty seconds, I could not wait to see how the garage punk quartet would implement them.
The entire Vild Days EP clocks in at just under ten minutes. It is the bombastic, in your face, straight for the jugular, punk rock explosion of Markus Kujawa (vocals, synth), Juho Talja (vocals, guitar), Illka Hildén (bass) and Jussi Roine (drums). Van Dammes’ songs are essentially all based off of drones created by Hildén’s bass and Kujawa’s synth. Maybe it’s my affinity for synths, but what fucking magic! It’s a similar approach to what New York punk trailblazers Suicide were doing back in the mid seventies (see “Ghost Rider”).
The one main difference is that Van Dammes do it much faster. Opening track “Punk Rock Drummer” is about a punk rock drummer, simple as that. Roine lays down a beat and doesn’t waver from it. The guitar and bass grind along the same line, and the synth breakdown at the one minute and ten second mark is blissfully cheesy!
The song “Every Fourth Year” has the two lyrics “It’s on” repeated several times throughout. These are not condemnations! It absolutely works. Van Dammes have a knack for creating killer melodies and allowing them to exist on their own. Who needs introductions, verses, or bridges? Their approach to songwriting and structure are actually closer to bands from the hardcore wave of punk during the early 80s. Short, simple, and aggressive was the way of bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat and the Minutemen. These concepts are on full display in “Thunderbirds Are Go.” Talja shreds out a guitar riff that I have to assume caused his fingers to gush out blood, and a solo which proves infectious yet simplistic. The production on Vild Days EP is lo-fi and very bare bones, yet definitely works to the band’s advantage.
This is punk rock; it’s all about the attitude. If Van Dammes can capture this much energy and ferocity on a ten-minute recording, their live show must cause spontaneous combustion! I’m willing to volunteer my body for the experiment.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*edited by Lia Davis