In my years of experience listening to punk rock bands I have always divided them into two camps. The first camp being purists who use their music to champion causes and use their songs as sounding boards to remind people that the world is still a very unjust place full of pain and suffering.
Then there is the other camp who wants to play balls out three chord rock songs and just have a shit load of fun bouncing around and making noise. They write songs about silly everyday things like Slurpy stains on their favorite shirts and silly songs about punk rock heartbreak.
The Maplewood New Jersey trio Allied Chemical are in the latter camp. They named their band after a now defunct chemical company that used to make things like plastic forks and knives and even women’s clothing.
Further evidence that these punk rock hucksters belong in the latter camp is the way they bill themselves on the album: Chris Chloride guitars, vocals, complex equations, Cubic Zirconium bass, vocals, explosive chemical mixes, and Brian Ion, drums, toy piano, precise measuring techniques. Oh and onstage they wear lab coats. Hypothesis proven.
Enough science rhetoric though let’s get on to their debut record Sword Soup. It opens with the punchy “Allied Chemical” a verse chorus verse of crowd pleasing and rather danceable fun. It’s punk rock for the slightly tipsy barroom crowd, falling somewhere between Propaghandi and The Twerps. Next on “Only Game in Town” the band slows it down a few notches and goes for a more twangy rock feel, and Chris Chloride adopts a southern vocal twang to pair up with his story-song lyrics.
For their next experiment, the seven-minute long “Pony Show” Allied Chemical combine the elements of country twang and punk together to form a mutinous musical mélange, that has it’s moments and doesn’t quite have them at others. The fact is though that Allied chemical are at their most scientific when they are focused on making fist pumping punk rock as they do so wonderfully on “Battle” and the radio friendly “Luanne.”
At first glance Allied Chemical seem like a pretty straightforward punk rock band, but under the microscope one sees them go off on all kinds of different directions. Sword Soup proves they are a punk band at heart who sometimes seem to want to diversify into some goofy alt country rock group. This schizophrenia is sometimes a bit head scratching. Perhaps more research or at least a double album will result in a more focused experiment next time.
Overall, Sword Soup is worthy of more then a moment of your time. Recommended.
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