A little over 18 months ago, an NME hosted blogpost pitted Ireland as the new home of punk. Now, terms like “lazy journalism” shouldn’t be tossed about willy-nilly but let’s be honest: ‘punk’ is too reductive a label for any of the bands it featured and apart from some or all of them having shared a stage at one point or another (and two of the bands having a particularly close relationship), the only thing they really have in common is that they’re Irish.
One of those bands, Silverbacks, stand out from the rest thanks to the warped, lean, artsy post-punk sound of the string of singles they released throughout the last couple of years. Crafted with the oversight of the very in-demand Daniel Fox (Girl Band); the Dublin quintet are distinguishable by their tasteful, tri-guitar threads and frontman Daniel O’Kelly’s sprechgesang vocal style. You might even argue that of the lot, they’re the most fun to listen to.
In light of the Marmite reception of aforementioned “post-post-punk revival” scene, ‘Fad’ makes for an interesting yet apt title for a debut album. Sonically raw and at times ferocious, it’s propped up by O’Kelly’s observational lyricism and infectious hooks.
While the early ‘00s New York scene is an obvious reference point, you could argue that the ‘90s slacker pop trend is of equal importance to the band’s formula. The nihilistic, dry wit and laconic delivery of lines like “That wasn’t Jesus/That was just some fucker in a dressing gown” on highlight Drink It Down, or “There’s only one thing that’ll patch me up/But the DJ won’t play The Boys Are Back In Town” on Last Orders would make even the perpetually nonchalant Stephen Malkmus blush. If they wouldn’t, the prayer bell harmonics and whispers of “Korea” peppered all over Fad ’95 sure would.
The band’s triple guitar arrangement gives Fad most of its vitality. While not the most studied or technically deft guitar playing ever put to tape, licks are delicately interlocked and layered. Their counterpoints weave new substance and subtle intricacy to each track.
There is also a lot of diversity to enjoy – from the reluctant strut of Dunkirk and its catch and release groove which gives way to a wonderfully divergent, mathematical breakdown, to the vibrant, lush, disco-punk of Klub Silberrücken.
‘Fad’ is catchy and pointed, but a mere foundation. After all the hype and buzz, Silverbacks have created a collection of no-nonsense, snappy, memorable songs with an ironic and absurd self-awareness. Skirting around bouncy slacker pop, math rock and garage/post-punk revival sounds, it’s a record that never takes itself too seriously. Dunkirk pokes fun at using “every punk trick in the book / And you want it to go somewhere?” while even the album’s title could be seen to be poking fun at the buzz around the album, band or scene that birthed both. It doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to. It knows that, anyway.