Twelve years is a long time in any game, but in the fast-paced work of punk rock, it’s an absolute eternity. Thankfully, those dozen years have done little to alter California quintet Samiam, and their latest album, the stormy Stowaway, picks right up where 2011’s Trips left off. In fact, now they’re signed to Pure Noise Records, Samiam have the wind in their sails and they’re powering forward into uncharted waters.
Samiam formed in 1988 from the ashes of Isocracy, a band who were mainstays of the legendary Gilman club, and the result of that reconfiguration was as good as we expected. Over the years the band toured the world and made occasional forays into the Billboard charts, but the thing that always stayed the same was their irresistible blend of pop-punk and emo, at their ninth album delivers it in style. Opening to a discordant guitar line that’s stretched to breaking point makes for a rather disconcerting introduction, but the band soon burst into life, and if anyone was in doubts about the band’s return, then ‘Lake Speed’ sets the record straight. With pounding drums, soaring guitars and red raw vocals, it’s the ultimate mission statement that finds Samiam firmly planting their flag in the pantheon of punk, and it snaps and crackles in a brisk wind.
California has a long history of producing ground-breaking punk bands (Germs, The Mutants, Circle Jerks) but I’m picking up a definite English influence on these tracks, and especially ‘Lights Out, Little Hustler’. The Clash, The Ruts and Chelsea were certainly raucous, yet there was a melodic sensibility bubbling beneath their rage, and that is precisely the aesthetic into which Samiam tap. However, this crew won’t be painted into a corner, and ‘Shoulda Stayed’ has a touch of early Cure, ‘Monterey Canyon’ brings to mind Korean surfers Say Sue Me, while ‘Shut Down’ is a piece of pure punk heaven, in the vein of The Offspring, only with that Samiam twist. The mixture of buoyant punk anchored by an emo undertow makes for an intriguing proposition and, full of knockout hooks and sing along choruses, Stowaway contains the kind of songs that’ll sound appealing whether blasting out at a rowdy gig, or from your car stereo.
Some albums hit you between the eyes on first plays, while others are growers and reward repeat spins. Stowaway happens to be both, and you get the feeling that time will only add to its charms. In taking all that was great about their past and throwing it in the face of the future, Samiam have not only made an album for these times, but for all time.
- Lake Speed
- Lights Out, Little Hustler
- Shoulda Stayed
- Shut Down
- Scout Knife
- Monterey Canyon
- Natural Disasters