Released in the US last year, Thin Lips’ debut ‘Riff Hard’ has come to our shores following their signing to indie label Big Scary Monsters. The Philadelphia foursome follow a similar surfy, pop-influenced punk approach to some of their label mates, most notably Beach Slang. It’s a familiar sound, but there are enough other influences on the record to make it sound, if not quite original, then at least musically informed.
For example, ‘Never Again’ carries the aesthetic of the new school of indie-pop-punk purveyed by other BSM bands, but songwriting-wise is unashamedly rooted in 2000s pop punk. This works to their advantage, allowing Thin Lips to deliver two-and-a-half minutes of irresistible power-pop. But later tracks like ‘What’s Wrong’ betray the band’s emo influences, while ‘I Wonder’ incorporates a classic rock-esque riff.
Heartache is a recurring theme here, with most of the tracks dealing with love and loss, or break-ups. The tone is set by first track ‘DEB’, which opens proceedings with the lyric “I’ve been having nightmares again, been waking up and trying to pretend that you’re still here”. There are a few lyrical cliches like “I’m not the girl I used to be,” but they feel earned. Later ‘Mouth Skinned Like an Apple’ has an interesting vocal approach that personifies these themes, with vocalist Chrissy Tashjian’s strained voice conveying the song’s raw emotion.
All these tracks see Thin Lips at their best, punchy and fun while still heart-on-sleeve emotional, but the second half of ‘Riff Hard’ does contain some duds. ‘No Obituary’ and ‘Andy Weed’ are both largely forgettable, despite some interesting compositional elements in both, and the band’s general sound does begin to grate after a while.
Overall, though, ‘Riff Hard’ is a solid debut. Is it the most original, world-changing punk rock record ever to be released? Definitely not. Is it still great fun and full of well-written songs? Hell yeah it is.
‘Riff Hard’ by Thin Lips is released on 27th January on Big Scary Monsters.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)