The UK indie punk scene has been in excellent health in recent years, starting with the release of Nervus’ debut, ‘Permanent Rainbows’, in 2016. With two thoroughly well received EPs under their belt, Gender Roles are in prime position to go onto great things with their full-length debut.
From the opening moments of Prang’s first track, ‘You Look Like Death’, the canvas for the whole record is established. Pleasantly jaunty, jangly guitar lines dominate the verses. This could be off putting to someone looking for something a bit harder, but it really adds weight to the inevitable impact when the crunch comes in on the choruses. The explosion into harder instrumentation gives the huge, anthemic hook more of a pop; sticking in the mind for days after first listen. Most of the rest of the tracks use similar tricks to accomplish the same effect. It’s a masterclass of dynamics and, more importantly, contrast. Rather than increasing crunch, ‘Always’ uses a double time feel to add the lift to its chorus. It’s almost as though Gender Roles are making the point that this is how you make a section stand out; contrast it to the previous section.
‘Prang’ is not just a collection of ten songs that just follow the basic verse/chorus structure. Instead each song has at least one interesting structural experiment that elevates them from well-written, radio ready bangers to some of the best song released so far this year. The build on ‘Hey With Two Whys’ is the perfect example. It starts quiet with a math rock-esque guitar line and a simple vocal refrain. The band add volume and more layers of instrumentation before dropping to a quiet repetition of a riff used earlier in the song. This fake-out leads perfectly into a chorus that might just be the best on the whole album. ‘Ickie’ shifts the core formula of the album. Rather than being quite uplifting throughout, its verse is quite subdued and sombre, but this adds to the sense of contrast when the relatively upbeat chorus comes slamming in. Not only this, but it contains the best structural experiment. Just when the second chorus should come in, the music breaks to just a simple drum pattern, which is used to propel an almost spiteful pre-chorus. This makes the chorus all the more satisfying when it does finally come in.
Vocally, the album throws out so many hooks it can be pretty hard to keep track. Pick a song and there will be at least one moment that will make you want to singalong at the top of your lungs. It’s these hooks combined with the excellent work in the rhythm section that will make even the most reserved listener want to dance like a mad man to any chorus on the record. ‘Tip Of My Tongue’ displays another side to the vocals. They build to a scream on the final chorus, and, while it’s not the sort of thing that will ever appear on a Deicide album, it’s a welcome final push that really strengthens the end of song. It’s such a great weapon in the Gender Roles arsenal that you’ll wish they used it more often. Even when they pull it out again for every song after ‘Tip Of My Tongue’ it still feels like a special moment rather than a cheap gimmick used to push more impact into the song where it’s not truly earned. It feels like they agree it should have been used more.
With ‘Prang’, Gender Roles are ready to go head to head with any rock band in the world right now. If there were any justice in the music industry, they’d be all over radio and end of year lists on the strength of this record. This album is essential for any fan of the current British indie punk scene and is a great starting point for anyone interested. You should be excited for this album and for whatever they do next.
Words: Matthew Brooks