Not to be confused with the homonymous football team, Popular Giants is a Garage rock/Pop-punk band from Los Angeles, California. The high-energy songs on their self-titled first offering are based upon a work of big catchy hooks and harmonies over fat guitar riffs in the spirit of The Foo Fighters, The Ramones and Nirvana, as well as a lot of “dirty rock n’ roll” style lead guitar ripping, ala Turbonegro’s seminal album "Apocalypse Dudes".
Christopher Peacock formed the band in 2011 as guitarist and songwriter to simply get back to playing the kind of “old skool” punky rock he grew up on. After going through several different singers the following year -including a stint with Kenyan R n’B-star-turned-afro-punk Richie Longomba- Christo began singing the songs he was writing as well. With the addition of Punk-rock surgeon (really) Francis Cyran on bass, John Fortin’s searing lead guitar and multi-instrumentalist Mike “Choco” Criddell on drums, the So Cal four-piece was born as an answer to the now shared question: “What the hell happened to rock?”
Not only did the band really click musically, writing songs together with a strong vision of what makes good songs: simplicity, dynamics, catchy melodies and gris - there was a shared consensus about the sound of rock records these days. In this rapidly accelerating digital age, seemingly anyone can create whatever genre of Rock music they want at home on their computer, but with everyone using similar drum samples and digital guitar plug-ins, a homogenization of the sound has taken place, a “digital sound,” which could best be described as thin or “tinny,” or perhaps more accurately…lacking balls. But back before computer recording, editing and “modeling” of music became the norm, professional albums were recorded on analog tape, which produced a rich, warmer tone than most of the albums released today (The Foo Fighters’ sonically perfect "Wasting Light" was also recorded on two-inch analog tape). To get back to that sound, the outfit recorded its debut on a Stevens two-inch analog tape machine from the 1970’s (the actual machine Pink Floyd used for "The Wall" in fact), to preserve the “fat” steamroller sound of the L.A. Rock veterans live.
Actually I didn't perceive any special impression after the first listen, but on their second chance they did give me intense positive vibes. The following times I was already in sympathy and in tune with them and it was kind of a sequence of orgasms galore!
"What a pain in the ass. Do we feel the need of the millionth Los Angeles band of melodic Punk?" I fancy some of you reading there is saying or thinking this. Well, the truth is not so simple to define and this can be heard already from the first notes of the opener "Pretty Life". It's undoubtely Punk with echoes of Blink 182, but there's decidedly more maturity and a feeling of sad detachment to read between the lines of the guitar plot, as well as a tougher approach missing in many field line-ups.
Things get even more complex with "So Happy", an orgy between Offspring and No Fun At All; still, the vocals are never as gleeful or adolescential as in the Offspring's albums, and the drums maintain a tighter pace.
"On the Road" takes Foo Fighters as a starting point, but the guitars are more in the vein of Social Distortion, whereas "We Want Your Soul" contains two axe solos and is closer to Street punk with the exception of the melodic refrain.
"Devil I Ain't Done" is a hypnotic song, masterfully blending adrenaline and ctachy tunes
with an old Rock pattern on the snare drum. Who's so insane to resist the mesmerizing force of the vocals?
The less than a minute of "It's Not You Fault" deals with old school Punk and symbolically closes the first side, and soon afterwards "Trepidation" conquers our souls; a melancholic composition with a piano till the classic line-up takes on the scene in a very Bad Religion-influenced manner; one more time my duty reminds me to emphasize to you the clean yet fast and energetic drum fill-ins by Mike enriching the whole track.
In a short time "I'm Not the One" displays the best bass lines by chemistry doctor Francis; a supreme assortment of vocals make it a potential candidate for a promotional official video.
"Get it on": an incredibly well-performed cover version of Turbonegro's hit, which now partially sounds as a jam between the forementioned and the White Stripes. Girls be prepared to shake your asses wildly and men headbang to the irresistible R n R riff. A mandatory listen in a play-as-loud-as-ever for your maximum enjoyment is my today's good deed to you all. Need I tell ya more?
On the trail of Scan Punk with the addition of a nasty riff, "Antibody" might make fans of the Rolling Stones and Billy Idol due to the way the vocals are delivered in the strophes anticipating the choruses. Another ass-ripping song with great drumming which takes no prisoners at all!
"Seamless" mixes Bad Religion and Dropkick Murphys and is my current highlight; the nth lively axe solo and a Hard rock break before the refrain reprise make me play on the replay button and sing obsessively and tirelessly along with the vocalist like a beardless teenager. What the hell is happening to me? What kind of trick is this?
A cover by the Godfathers, "Unsatisfied" includes Punk structures as well as real Rock ones, and the magical guitar solo is the icy on the cake to the final mood rendered by the Californian four-piece.
The closing 13th track "The Greatest of All Time" is another fast violent chip at the end of the side closer to the brutal fun from D.R.I., Gang Green and the likes, rather than Punk bands!
Nothing to discuss about the recording at the Hard Drive Studios from North Hollywood, while some may object that a product offering music solutions already proposed by several other acts is a negative aspect; I assure you this is only a legitimate deduction, but the reality is that the variety of styles in "Popular Giants", and the performing and arranging quality will make you forget this detail, and what's more they make it one of the top-notch releases of 2012.
If you're looking for a quick, catchy, and pissed-off burst of Punk and Rock, look no further than Popular Giants' self-titled debut release.
MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - November 30, 2012