Poppets, ‘Steal it Like a Thief’

Posted by on November 22, 2013


FDH Records, 5/9/2013

For the past five years, Poppets have been cranking out a seemingly endless stream of catchy, lo-fi garage punk tunes, mostly in the form of singles and EPs. Steal it Like a Thief is the duo’s second 12” record and their first long-player since their self-titled effort came out in 2009. Within the space of just nine short songs (which is still one more than on their 2009 bubble gum blast), they continue onward with what might be their best work so far.

They say good things come in small packages. Poppets is entirely the work of Lina and Magnus (surnames withheld), both of whom play guitar and are backed up by a drum machine for a rhythm section. Their guitars seem to come together in a solid wall of sound with the two usually singing in harmony, giving their music a surprisingly full sound. Part of what raises Steal it Like a Thief up an extra notch is that the recording is distinctly less thin and lo-fi than on their earliest efforts – a fact that allows Poppets’ fundamentally powerful sound shine through.

There was an endearing two-kids-playing-into-their-boombox vibe on Poppets’ older stuff, but you could tell there was potential for something else lurking behind the haze. The solid song writing and tight musicianship has always been there, but with a bit of the grit out of the way you get an even stronger sense of how great Poppets are at crafting simple, catchy pop tunes.

Pop aspirations aside, Poppets are also amazing at delivering bare-bones, no nonsense rock ’n’ roll. The duo is masterful at making fast, quirky love songs, with the fact they appear to be romantically involved with each other adding an endearing layer of intrigue. One great example is “Sure About You,” whose chorus repeats cute phrases over a driving knot of guitar – “I can’t get enough of your tender lips / I can’t get enough of your fingertips” and so on. Similarly, “In Your Arms” and “The Long Highway” are consecutive whip-cracks about being close to and trying to reach your baby. You can tell why “1+1=2” was chosen as an early single, since its sweetly chiming guitar tones combine naturally with Poppets’ loved-up joy to showcase the duo at their charming best.

A little darkness still manages to seep in. Songs like the slow-burning “Doomed City,” broods on how miserable the world can be and yearns for absent love, whereas “Break My Bones,” another semi-slow jam in which a special someone heals the damage caused by the proverbial sticks and stones. Along with their cleaned-up sound, this type of introspection and a new-found ability to switch between moods and tempos seems like another new addition to the band’s arsenal. It would almost have seemed out of place on Poppets, which was a bouncier and distinctly more straightforward effort, yet even in relative darkness they manage to maintain some of their former fun. The band only really dispenses with pleasantries for the album’s closer “Dark Cloud,” a super-short punk blast that rounds on someone they dislike.

The band really shines when they subtly twist their trademark style in new ways. The best showcase of this is the title track, which manages to sound completely different just with the addition of a rudimentary keyboard riff. The band has rarely sounded quite as sharp; the juxtaposition of the guitars and keyboard, and the added bonus of being able to make out the lyrics stake a further claim for the band’s clean new outlook. Another highlight is “Hjärtats Slag,” where they shake things up by singing in their native tongue. Despite the language barrier, the fact I still managed to sing along is testament to how catchy their tunes are.

In the end, I could give you a ton of reasons to dig Steal it Like a Thief, but I think you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy it given a chance. If you’re even remotely into anything loud, fast, and most importantly fun, Poppets are going to hit all kinds of sonic sweet spots.