Graded on a Curve: Wimps,
Garbage People

Seattle trio Wimps have been dishing catchy garage-punk since 2013 or thereabouts, but on their new album and second for Kill Rock Stars, they connect as one of the sweetest of all things; a shit-hot party band that doesn’t fall short in the studio. Not just sweet but rare, and that the party resembles a wild, inclusive weekend art-college throwdown (just after exams) is all the better. As Garbage People speeds along, numerous predecessors do spring to mind, but the whole is never burdened with similarity as they possess a fair amount of range. It’s out now on vinyl, compact disc, cassette, and digital.

To give you some sense of what Wimps are about, the cover to their 2014 “Party At the Wrong Time” 7-inch is a drawing of a hot dog in bun wearing sunglasses while riding a skateboard and doing the Egyptian. It reinforces the music guitarist-vocalist Rachel Ratner, bassist-vocalist Matt Nyce, and drummer David Ramm make; if not exactly lighthearted, it’s never ponderous. Instead, there’s a fair amount of humor at play, though sidewalk-surfing frankfurter aside, Wimps are never offputtingly zany.

The title of the above 7-inch might lead some to assume that’s from whence my party band association derives, but the conclusion was drawn prior to dipping back into the band’s catalog. Wimps’ earlier output, which commenced with the Repeat LP on the End of Time label (currently in its third pressing), isn’t radically different from what they’re up to now, though their initial sound, loaded with riffs and energy and consistently non-generic, is the basis for some drawn comparisons to the early Rough Trade shebang.

It’s a solid precursor to what Wimps are up to now; amongst other habits, they like songs about noshing (Repeat mentions cheeseburgers and the refusal to eat “Old Food”), which sheds some additional light on that hot dog and brings us to one of Garbage People’s highlights. But don’t let’s get ahead of ourselves. “Giant Brain” opens their new one, based around a clean art-punkish guitar line reminiscent of those found on Repeat but continuing the songwriting progression that informed Suitcase, 2015’s debut for Kill Rock Stars.

“Giant Brain” is also infused with keyboard, which brings with it a bit of a Devo-ish flavor, but more specifically recalls the rougher-edged sound of the late ’70s-early ’80s regional punk bands that folded Spud Boy action (or just keyboards and/ or synths in general) into their attack. Cool. There’s also some welcome raucousness near song’s end, which is in line with the saxy spazz-outs that make “Cave Life” more than just a fresh twig on the surprisingly sturdy arty guitar-based new wave tree. That’s even cooler.

The title track is an example of Wimps’ melodic punk foundation, but as it’s a strong foundation, it’s likely to please fans of the output of labels as varied a Castle Face, HoZac and indeed, much of the earlier Kill Rock Stars discography; “Mope Around” could’ve fit right into the ’90s Pacific Northwest indie punk wave, but with building catchiness that helps it to stand out a bit (nodding to K’s International Pop Underground series, and also maybe the less garage-centric Estrus bands).

The abovementioned food song highlight “O.P.P.,” about eating other people’s pizza, reaches up over the border, bringing to mind The Evaporators (who feature indefatigable Canadian interviewer Nardwuar the Human Serviette as singer). Specifically, the lyrical qualifier “but only if it’s cheese” compares nicely to the Vancouver outfit’s “Addicted to Cheese” from their Ripple Rock album

It reinforces Wimps as tacklers of unserious topics (good cheese pizza is no joke, however), though they fortify the template with songs on universal themes such as “Procrastination,” in “Quitter” the dullness of abstinence (e.g. cigs, booze, meat), and “Baggage” (with the lyrical refrain “everyone’s got”). “Bees,” which is focused on the declining population of the flying honey-making insect, stands out somewhat.

Through it all Wimps truck along instrumently like champs (Ramm played previously in The Intelligence and Nyce in Meth Teeth) and then head into the homestretch with “Wanna Go Out,” the song making clear the desire to instead stay in, and as such nodding back to “I Don’t Wanna Go Out” by Australia’s undersung X, all while connecting a bit like a lost single (sans accents) from the heyday of the Dutch label Plurex.

Really, if any handful of Garbage People’s selections were grooved into a 45 dating from the dawn of the Reagan-Thatcher-era, collectors would hanker for a copy. This goes especially for late highlight “Trip Around the Sun,” with its ample length (fitting as an A-side) likely to get ‘em pogoing wherever it’s played. “Monday” would work fine on the flip, and like a lot of top-notch party rocking, its subject isn’t very festive (“every day is like Monday to me.”).

Neither is a nagging lack of sleep, but with “Insomnia,” Wimps plug into another riffy punk current and then ride it to an extended fadeout. It’s a sharp finale, and anybody looking for a fun, amped-up but non-escapist outlet for summer might want to give Garbage People a try.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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