Those first early steps for a band are rarely easy. Even with tight musicianship there's still the concept of an image to take into consideration. Be it a literal physical image, lyrical themes or musical style, people are attracted to the familiar. This is why singles are so important: we let the first taste inform us of how the rest of the album will sound.
The five-piece Infrared Penguin's debut EP No Chill is a concise package. At four tracks it's a quick listen with a blunt message: we are here to party. All but one of the tracks is a head-bobber, and while the themes vary lyrically they carry recurring elements in the music itself, creating a consistent vibe.
“Chili and Chill” has classic funk staples. The title track's grooving bass line informs the rest of the song. The wah-wah guitar gives the feel of Isaac Hayes. Once the song truly starts the lead guitar takes a more modern rough aesthetic, a fusion that works surprisingly well thanks to the mix: these elements are kept crystal clear even when the song is at full swing. “Society” too is straight-up funk, albeit more experimental at points and with a full-on breakdown towards the end.
Lyrically things are a bit divided. The humor is where I think they work best. The title track's retelling of the band's origins, from dreams of being a band to a disastrous live show, clicks so well because it's something anyone can get a sense of, if not outright relate to. It also helps that it's telling a story. The album's closer “March of the Pepe” is more difficult, a rundown of memes presented as an education on Internet culture. If you haven't a clue what they're talking about it's still a great jam. It thrashes with a pop-punk sensibility as the playing and singing climb in intensity. It's when the writing turns more serious that things feel a bit green.
The previously mentioned “Society” begins with a great narrative and even a few sharp observations, but towards the end becomes too direct: “A life worth living is a life lived free / So do whatever you fucking please” would be a great parody of standard rock sentiments, but I'm not so sure it was intended that way. It clashes with the rest of the tune somewhat. Still, the sudden aggressive turn works from a composition standpoint. “Like a Cassette” has the frills of classic rock, and for a song about the acceptance and letting go of nostalgia that's a brilliant decision. It's that familiarity an audience craves; the hooks echo decades past and the narrative leads you through.
From a few listens it's obvious Infrared Penguin has their minds set on what path they want to follow. They've done a solid job of updating their influences with modern tastes in mind. I only hope that they stick with it for a full-length album and let the party go on.
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