Punk-rock in the early- to mid '90s always had such a recognizable and consistently engaging sound ... something about the dry, manic crack of those snare drums; the belligerent guitars and bass that crashed against one another; the subtle complexity revealed with each additional listen. It defined the style and has kept us coming back to the bands of that ilk again and again. Some might call it the "glory days" of the genre while others pay homage to the music's unending influence on today's punk sound. Either way, the path blazed by bands such as Face To Face, Green Day and Social Distortion burns as brightly now as it did nearly 20 years ago.
So when an up-and-coming outfit such as The Reveling unleashes a record like Tributaries and manages to capture the spirit and fire that made that '90s sound so vital - while simultaneously infusing its songs with the immediacy and melodic muscle that makes modern punk rock a powerful force in its own right - it's downright impossible not to notice.
Recorded by Alex Newport (Frank Turner, At The Drive-In, Rival Schools, Samiam), the Brooklyn quartet's first full-length and debut for Black Numbers features ten tracks of propulsive, highly infectious working-class punk rock that is as catchy and accessible as it is textured and nuanced. Much like The Reveling's well-received 2009 EP 3D Radio, Tributaries is anchored by a punchy rhythm section and plenty of throw-your-fists-in-the-air barnstormers. It's a record that spans decades, yet it sounds exciting and new. It is timeless punk rock for the masses: a rousing anthem for the hoi polloi that is not without sophistication, but still sounds best pulsing through our speakers at top volume or in a live setting, cranked out by the band to a crowd of sweaty, eager show goers.
From the first note of opener "Revival", Sean Morris' vocals are clear, bold and rise brilliantly above the sizzling chords that melt across each chorus. Songs like "Chasing My Tail" exhibit a confident, expressive voice unmatched by most front men, although Morris' band mates carry back-up duties with equal assurance. In fact, Tributaries' stellar harmonies are yet another high water mark for an album with many noteworthy attributes.
Musically these ten tracks feel raw and real, a quality that allows us to mention it along with the records that redefined punk rock fifteen years before. On offerings such as "Charlotte Thompson", the two guitarists crisply match chord for blazing chord before swerving suddenly away, while the fidgety energy of "Left at Forkright" pulses with a bouncing bass line and cymbal-driven beat. Meanwhile "Ironbound" couldn't sound more current, with a menacing verse climbing to a desperately urgent chorus or in the duality present in its politically tinted lyrics.
Though it seems Tributaries could have been released alongside Dookie or Goddamnit, it is neither a desperate nor innocent attempt to duplicate a sound. The album's second-to-last track, "Last Act", serves as a rousing reminder of The Reveling's influences while showing a band that can forge its own brand of unmistakably modern, hard-hitting, blue-collar rock 'n' roll. Upbeat, catchy and crammed with "whoa oh ohs", the song captures how kinetic The Reveling's music is, how complex a simple song can be, and why Tributaries - like punk rock in general - remains relevant and will endure for years to come.