Fronted by Eric Neurotic (Fear of Lipstick), Feral Trash plays dark, melodic pop-punk, and they do it well. Especially on the opening four tracks. In fact, “Seventeen”, “Dead Weight”, “Loser”, and lead single “Obey” would have been a front-runner for EP of the year. One of the coolest things about this introductory four is that “Dead Weight” was previously released on Feral Trash’s debut 7″, but the version on Trashfiction is different; and it’s way better. It sounds bigger, fuller, angrier, more passionate. It all but makes the original obsolete. In addition to that, it transitions seamlessly into “Loser”, a new song previously unreleased. When you them together, it’s hard to believe these songs weren’t always companion pieces. Together, they make for the strongest 6 minutes of this album. “Obey” keeps things strong as a short burst of infectious energy, with a great melodic quality and a simple, but effective hook in “I won’t obey“.
Trashfiction is a great, raw-sounding pop-punk album with huge riffs, huge hooks, and passionate vocals. That’s not to say that is free of slip-ups.
After “Obey” comes “Beth”. “Beth” is the only real offender here. It opens with rather lazily written “dark” piano, which perhaps is supposed to create a sense of “moodiness”, but ends up coming off as cheesy due to its simplicity and lack of any real emotional weight behind the playing. It also makes heavy use of a verse technique I affectionately refer to as “British Bass & Space”. This sequence will usually start off with a single guitar chord strum, followed by lyrics until the chord’s echo dies. Then, audible bass will fill space (I use the word “fill” because it achieves pretty much nothing) until the next guitar chord comes in. It’s a technique that was especially popular among British indie rock/punk bands last decade (still is to a degree). It drives me absolutely crazy. “Beth” ends up sounding like if Arctic Monkeys circa-Favourite Worst Nightmare tried to force one of their slower songs into being slightly faster and being slightly more hard-edged. Whereas almost every song here works on almost every level, this one feels out of place and confused about its own identity.
After “Beth”, things fall back into place. No entire song quite reaches the heights of the first four, but moments do, and no song after this point is anything less than good.
Really, Feral Trash’s only problem on this album is their very occasional tendency to feel that they must break up monotony that isn’t there with ideas that they don’t seem to really care about themselves. “P.A.R.A.N.O.I.D.”, for most of its duration, is one of the best songs on the album, but when the female vocals come chiming in after the instrumental drop with “They’re all laughing at you” repeated over and over, it throws me back to middle school (granted, when Eric comes back in to join her, the effect is pretty cool). This is an angsty album, but the way the angst is presented is almost always effective when Feral Trash stick to their general formula. When they deviate, usually when they open up cracks in their wall-of-sound approach, things get troublesome. I’m talking about this disproportionately with how often it occurs (not often) because it’s something that should be taken into consideration with future work. Stick to your guns, or get new guns and learn to aim them before shooting.
“Where We Go” serves as a promise of the future. It’s distinct without resorting to parlor tricks. It’s the slowest on the album, the longest, relies on repeated mantras and features the best vocal performance from Eric, along with the best implementation of the second, female vocalist. “Tell me where we go from here” seems like an easy enough question to answer. You build upon your many strengths and hide your few weaknesses until they become strengths.
Despite its occasional hiccups, Trashfiction is a great debut LP for Feral Trash. Some bands will turn out a record like this and it’ll be their peak, while Feral Trash will almost certainly improve upon this album with their next one. I look forward to them blowing my mind probably sometime next year. Until then, I’ll pull this out for a spin every once in a while, skipping “Beth” when it come on.