Jan 14, 2022
By Caleb Campbell
Taking Meds feels like a band out of time, yet built for their moment. Since debuting in 2016 with My Life As a Bro and returning in 2019 with I Hate Me, the New York punk outfit has cemented a potent combination of punk, indie rock, and post hardcore. They distill distinctly ‘90s influences, marrying the hooks of the era’s alt rock with dissonant modern punk grit. With their latest record, Terrible News From Wonderful Men, that combination is sharper than ever, delivering on everything that longtime genre purists have loved about the band while building up to a powerful adrenaline rush.
The record starts with the relentless opening salvo of “Lifesaver,” setting the template for what’s to come with a barrage of drums and wiry guitar riffs. Barring the watery interlude, the track is full-throttle from opening to close, throwing heaps of hooks and attitude on top as it charges forward. That amped-up feel continues with “Daylily Gardener” and “Musclehead,” only letting up with the twinkling math rock guitars and quiet-loud dynamics of “Tangerines.”
Through these tracks, the band’s main point of tension and most addictive quality emerges. Taking Meds balances intensity and catchiness on a razor’s edge, letting up on neither aspect for long. Towering riffs meet earworm hooks bolstered by guttural vocals from frontman Skylar Sarkis. Sarkis gets some of the record’s best moments, showing off his versatility as a frontman with the sharp hooks of “Lifesaver” and ranting spoken-word verses of “Citgo.”
With each track, it feels like the band brings something new into the mix. They explore tense and textured builds with “Crepehanger” before launching into a roaring chorus. Later they deliver some standout guitar shredding on “Ten Vows” and balance ‘90s grunge harmonies and sludgy post hardcore on “Moving the Stash.” Aside from the alt rock and post hardcore influences, the band also shows off some of their roots in prog and math rock. They weave tempo changes and dexterous guitar lines throughout, all brought together in visceral quality by production from Converge’s Kurt Ballou.
The band’s most ambitious and exploratory moment, however, comes with the closer, “Tame.” Opening on an elliptical bass riff, the band dives into dark and swirling instrumental textures, including some gorgeous string accompaniments. Though the track has its moments of pummeling power, it’s a tantalizing glimpse of the band breaking out of their punk mold and carving new territory as well.
Thematically, there may be less to dig into, but the band does offer a few moments of pointed satire on “Musclehead” and “Citgo.” The band’s dark humor and caustic emo pathos bleeds through occasionally, especially with the brief clips that cap off several songs, all revolving around “bad news.” Mainly though, the record doesn’t try to be something it’s not; it charges forward with singular intensity and ripping melodies, capturing an instant vitality in the process. The results are simple, straightforward, and extremely gratifying. Whether you’re nostalgic for the heyday of ‘90s alt rock or are looking for a killer modern punk record, Taking Meds delivers. (www.takingmeds.bandcamp.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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