Formed in 2014, US melodic-punks Russian Girlfriends quickly self-released their debut album All Around just a year later and now having teamed up with German label Gunner Records, it was given a European re-release on 1st September. Mixing elements of rock’n’roll with hard-core and punk rock this album is equal parts raw, angry, heartfelt and ferocious whilst drawing on inspiration from small town Americana. The thoughtful lyrics and infectious melodies have a misty-eyed nostalgic feel yet still manage to sound modern and relevant.
The album opens with an extended intro as Theme From Stripes builds and builds before exploding into a fast, gnarly blast of punk that hooks you in straight away. The middle-eastern guitar vibes towards the end had me tapping the rhythm out with my feet before another explosion of noise ends the track. Quite simply, this was one of the best introductions to an album I’ve heard in a while.
A dose of pure Americana follows with A Rollerskating Jam Named Regret which nods to contemporaries Gaslight Anthem and Bruce Springsteen. The musicianship on show here is super tight throughout but is nothing if not backed up with songs, which this definitely is, especially on Bones Of A Saint which is a strong contender for my favourite song on the album. Showing off their more melodic side, this doesn’t rage as much as other offerings here but its power is in the lyrics and the intensity of delivery. Adam Hooks’ vocals can be whisky-mellow one moment and paint stripping another, exemplified by the lines “she has the heart of a saint beneath her bones, hallelujah” and “fight like lovers, fuck like rivals”.
Another favourite is Anxiety Attack which contrasts nicely, being a more jagged, angst driven, energetic rager of a song, but despite the power I was still drawn to Adam’s voice which in parts reminded me of a young Eddie Vedder.
Things take a turn for the heavy at this point with A New Sense Of Self. The staccato riffs mix brilliantly with the melodic chorus and more hardcore verses before we hit the middle of the album and a nod to their influences in the cover of Husker Du track The Biggest Lie which starts heavy, very heavy, almost doom metal, before metamorphosing into a full on hardcore stomp.
Comanche Moon is another fast one, keeping the hardcore flag flying with sharp guitar riffs and call and response vocals before the rock’n’roll blast of Hey Jealousy…Again. The buzzing guitars and gravelly vocals conjure sweaty whisky stained bars and fast cars. Neither of which is a bad thing.
I Prefer Pitbulls to People is aptly named as this rages with all the ferocity and bite of a pitbull, foaming at the mouth vitriol creating a rock’n’roll beast; after which the relative calm of the Springsteen inspired Tad Kubler seems tame by comparison but with some of the best lyrics and some American south infused riffs this is a bona-fide ass shaker.
The album finishes with Terrible Twos which is loaded with melody and call to arms lyrics like “it’s not how you take your punches but how you take your breaths” that tug on your heartstrings in a tale of young parenthood.
How this album never got a European release first time round I don’t know, but don’t miss the opportunity second time. If you’re a fan of The Gaslight Anthem, The Flatliners, Menzingers and so on, then say hello to your new favourite band.