What is punk rock? If I had a dollar for every permutation of the question I’ve seen or heard I could probably buy and sell all of your asses right now. My takeaway from that is: a) there is no right or wrong answer, and b) after a while, you just know it when you hear it. Really, the more accurate question to ask anyone who cares is, “What does punk rock mean to you?” To get to the point, the first time I heard this album I knew the Wimps made punk rock like they had me in mind.
Even if they didn’t have you in mind, Wimps are punk rock for sure. The Seattle-based three-piece comprises of scene veterans Rachel Ratner (Butts) on guitar and lead vocals, Matt Nyce (Meth Teeth) on bass and backing vocals, and Dave Ramm (The Intelligence) on drums. They seem like a band having fun doing what they want – — namely making raucous, inspired punk songs that examine the foibles and irritations of daily life with subtle wit and a sense of good humor. Conjuring the playful spirit of bands like Red Kross, Descendents and the Dickies, Wimps create their own brand of loud, fast and fun music that is just as wild as anything by those guys while still managing to inhabit its own sonic space. The band brings together all the best parts of rapid-fire punk with a smattering of lo-fi post punk guitar work to create an angular, slightly off-kilter blast.
Repeat opens up appropriately with a driving track about missed appointments called “Slept in Late.” It tells the tale of someone flaking out on a get-together with a friend, having imbibed too much booze the previous night, and it is not the only time the Wimps deals with less-than-ideal social interactions. In fact, the album ends with a regretful counterpoint called “Trouble,” during which Ratner laments what led to the lie-in in the first place (“I stayed out way too late / It didn’t end so great / Stay out of trouble”). “UFO” turns the tables on the protagonist by confronting someone who has fallen out of touch and, continuing this cantankerous back-and-forth on “Grump,” Ratner sings, “You might be sick of me / But don’t be such a grump,” before adding, “It’s all downhill from here.” If Wimps didn’t dress up their songs with such catchy riffs, they might risk straying into black-eyeliner-crying-into-a-journal territory, but as it stands you’ll be more likely to bounce around the room to their music.
Dysfunctional relationships aside, a few of the best songs on the album deal with the age-old punk problem of breaking out of a boring, conformist lifestyle. The title track, in fact, is all about living “when your life seems stuck on repeat.” To reinforce the message, the next song urges listeners to “Quit Your Job,” and, with tongue firmly in cheek, “grow old and be boring.” In the midst of all the existentialist angst, “Nap” presents someone who just wants to stay home and — you guessed it — take a nap. Still, the song is so loud and bouncy that you’d never be able to sleep to it.
These tunes are all played with the same frantic conviction, and although they might not make you want to scrap your current lifestyle entirely, they’ll at least get you singing along as though you’re seriously entertaining the idea. Some of Repeat’s songs fall into their own unique categories. The album closes out with a solid string of quasi-anthems about rather more trivial matters. “Stop Having Fun” instructs you to do just that, and “Old Food” warns you of the dangers of eating stuff past its sell-by-date. Even then there’s “Wet Cardboard,” which provides a welcome lesson on packing your stuff in damp boxes.
The Wimps roar through 14 songs in about 23 minutes, and it’ll take everything you have not to keep flipping the record over again and again. Yes, the songs deal with some odd topics, but damn if you won’t be singing along with all of them after a few laps with the album. Repeat may or may not conform to your particular definition of punk rock, but I can’t imagine that this infectious collection won’t worm its way into your ear regardless given half the chance.