The So So Glos, ‘Blowout’ – Album Review
There's a picture of the So So Glos' in their very early days that tells you everything you need to know. The three children shown in the image are brothers: Alex Levine, Ryan Levine and Zach Staggers (technically a step-brother). Their lives, you might say, have been following a clear trajectory to this moment in 2013, as the NYC-based band releases the album that will likely be their breakthrough. The video for the lead single, 'Son of an American,' pushes this narrative, using home videos of pillow fights, little league and early band mimicking to cast these guys as the coolest little kids you've ever met. More than 20 years later, they're all grown up and playing band for real.
'Blowout' is the band's second official release, but it's effectively their debut, as it's the first LP they've dropped since logging the miles and putting in the time required to give them a fair shot of expanding beyond the Brooklyn DIY scene they long ago conquered. At home, they have a venue, Shea Stadium, that they own and operate, and they've previously seen another performance spot -- the Market Hotel, shut down for serving booze without proper permissions -- come and go. Shea Stadium's rotating cast of characters includes Titus Andronicus, Diarrhea Planet, Small Black and countless other noise-makers, and the So So Glos celebrate the scene by making nearly every Shea show available for listening on the web. Even without songs, the So So Glos have a place secured in the music world, but 'Blowout' is much more than a vanity recording or dollop of gravy extraneous to the meat-and-potatoes work they do on behalf of the Brooklyn rock underground.
Over the course of a dozen songs, the So So Glos build a convincing argument for any hype this release has received. The title track and 'House of Glass' speak to their roots. Bratty and brash on the surface, they're brimming with a tension and conviction that makes the album's most aggressive offerings inviting. Their abrasiveness carries a danger equal to what the three kids featured in those old photos and archival film might conjure.
And though punk and hardcore run in their blood, 'Blowout' is even more often focused on hooks, anthemic choruses and even a few relaxed bits of nostalgia. Just as Titus Andronicus can play loose, sing poorly and stuff their lyrics with weighty insights while getting strangers to sing along, the So So Glos inspire camaraderie, replacing specific messages with storytelling and day-to-day insights straight from their 'hood in Bay Ridge.
Their lives are essentially inseparable from their content; their contemporaries are their audience; and their mission hinges on drawing like-minded music fans into their universe more than it involves pulling themselves out of it.
Songs 'Lost Weekend' and 'Diss Town' alone are enough to ensure this can't-miss band, well, doesn't miss. Both serve as strong potential singles that require an immediate reaction, but they're also infused with lasting intangibles that render them signature songs. On 'All of the Time,' the Glos go further and flirt with prettiness, never getting comfortable enough to go full-on ballad but showing an ambition that might open avenues of possibility for the band.
By the time 'Dizzy' brings 'Blowout' to a close, bands like the Stones and the Clash have crossed the mind more than once, and while buzzed-about Brits the Palma Violets make the same sorts of references, the approach and attitude here are quite different. Still, both the Palmas and Glos share a spirit of rock 'n' roll as community, as lifestyle and as something that's forgotten far too often: fun.