Over 20 years ago, I shared a cab with these nice women from an L.A. punk band called Red Aunts during SXSW. I remember their set the day before, and it was one of the most intense shows I'd seen up until that date. It doesn't happen often, but every now and again a band can come along that holds all of the elements that make them noteworthy. That's what I'd say if I were asked about Houston punk trio ImposterBoys. There's a fearlessness to how they craft a song that's coupled with all of the earmarks of youth, insecurity, and general disgust with where the world's heading that seems to echo throughout their debut album, One-Sided.
It's fierce, unapologetic, and loud intertwined within each and every snarling note that might easily make it one of the more honest releases of this year so far.
Starting off with the guitar that barks like a rabid dog on "Bitter," the song gets met with snappy drums and a bass that lies just underneath it all to create a sound that doesn't feel rushed, but rather straight-forward and honest. When the vocals come in, there's no mistaking Rox Khodr's voice. There's a dissonant and almost "who cares" vibe to how she sings, which is pretty perfect for the sound these three make together. Where bands that tried this sound 20 years ago had the luxury of high end production at their hands, the immediacy of this recording makes it feel that much more sincere and authentic.
This continues into the catchy song, "Who Here's a Ghost?" It's quickly apparent with these three that there's no pretension, just the sheer power of what they do together. There are moments where the guitar runs are classic punk in the vein of bands like early Ramones or The Addicts where it seems like they just have to get the song out of them in order to exercise some demonic spirit.
Things keep up the quick pace on the fourth song, "On Loan" where the three piece keep thing tough and distinct, never falling off their sound. There's something that's hard to put your finger on at first, but the original '60s and '70s punk sound that you may remember feel like they're channeling through here. There's no theft here, just pure energy and punk riffs and grunge structures. That road map is all over the following track, "Trukini La Halee," where the intensity of the guitar mixed with the liveliness of the drums gives the track a heft without falling too far from the rest of the record.
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The sixth track "L to R" opens in an opposite manner from the previous ones, showing off the thuddy bass before the drums come in and showcase an electrifying sound. The way the guitars and vocals find their way onto the song, gives a different approach in the band's songwriting, and proves they can mix things up. This changing up of things keeps up on "I'm Scared" where the guitar has more depth and the drums feel more thunderous without either overpowering one another. This song really reminded me in many ways of the '90s post-hardcore that proceeded the grunge movement, full of a well placed framework that makes it stand out, but still belongs with the rest of the record.
The last two tracks feel a little closer to garage rock and punk mixed together, but not in a bad way. The almost psych opening of "Gut Feeling" is quickly met with an intense guitar and snarling vocals from Bassist Jazz Martinez. It definitely throws you off by adding different vocals this late in the album, though they eventually get intersected with Khodr's voice. The final song, "Lord Dampnut" however is fast, furious, and could have come out in the early days of hardcore and fit right in. While the opening has elements of garage rock, this is a punk song through and through and while it stays under a minute and a half, it's weight is immediately felt.
The overall result is a record that doesn't let you down while staying intense and at some times dark, embodying all that punk stands for. The way the band incorporates different genres into how their songs are written just makes the album that much more inventive minus the any pretension. You can stream or purchase One Sided directly from ImposterBoys' Bandcamp. You can catch the band in person on Saturday March 3 at Big Top Lounge. The 21 & up show will also include sets from Prettiest Eyes and Mojave Red. Doors at 8 p.m. and TBD cover.