Vundabar – Smell Smoke (album review)

by Woody on March 20, 2018

Photo by Tim Oxton

For the last two years at SXSW, I’ve tried to opt for the band I haven’t seen over the established band in my rotation. This past Thursday, I stared at the option of Vundabar or Okkervil River, a band I’ve loved for 15 years or so. And while Vundabar won’t be replacing Okkervil in my pantheon any time soon, they sure didn’t make me regret my decision.

Smell Smoke is the Boston trio’s third album. I’d spun it a few times after seeing them on the SXSW list and enjoyed this excellent session for Paste. As I headed over with a buddy, I described them as a blend of pop-punk and post-punk.

The lead singer, Brandon Hagen, had spent the last couple of years caring for a family member in failing health. Combined with our President hitting new low after new low; a person’s outlook could be affected. That notwithstanding, the composition of many of the tunes is anthem-like, almost lighthearted in its cathartic approach.

Acetone and Harvest are the first two tracks and you’d be getting your money’s worth even if that was the end of things. Harvest has this jagged post-punk riff that heightens the subject of illness; yet the chorus demands to be sung by crowds. The last song, A Man Loses A Hat, is apt after watching their set and Hagen’s Sisyphean task of keeping his hat on his head for their set.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

Vundabar is here

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