San Francisco’s Pitch Black must be kidding. By titling their album This is the Modern Sound, they’re immediately setting themselves up for criticism and questioning. Just listen to the rumbling basslines, the organs, the taut melodies. This is punk rock, melodic and old school, just the way it’s supposed to be. But then again, maybe the joke’s on us.
This is The Modern Sound, at first, brings to mind the tight and melodic sounds of Pacific Northwest and Bay Area punk rock bands of old, like The Wipers and Crime, respectively. But within those tight rock tunes are more subtleties. There are plenty of power chords, to be sure, but there are plenty of unexpected elements as well. Halfway through opener “Tonopak,” for example, the band switches to half-speed, slowing their tune from a fast-rocking anthem to a slow-chugging dirge. And that’s just the first song! But the further you listen, the more interesting it gets. Though that organ sound is anything but modern, it gives more depth to these songs, upping the eerie factor tenfold.
“The Veracity of Baggage” and “Toothcutter” are less reminiscent of Pitch Black’s regional predecessors as they are to their Southland peers, The Hot Snakes. Had I not known better, I would have guessed that John Reis had something to do with the raucous garage punk on this collection. Even “Sutured Heart,” a slower waltzing garage rocker, has a sound reminiscent of Reis’ other, slightly more famous band, Rocket From The Crypt. That is, of course, without the horns.
When you look at the band members’ previous affiliations (The Nerve Agents, Screw 32), it’s easy to see how this is a little more modern by comparison. And while we’re at it, a little more grown up. This Bay Area foursome has grown into a beast just as fearsome but with more depth and diversity. Punk rock is still punk rock, of course, and someone who would appreciate a four-on-the-floor mosh classic would probably enjoy most of Modern Sound. But Pitch Black has the advantage of appealing to those who enjoy a nice melody as well. This may not be very “modern” per se, but a good rock song never goes out of date.
Hot Snakes – Audit in Progress
Rocket from the Crypt – Group Sounds
Crime – San Francisco’s Still Doomed
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.