Like Bats are the type of band you’d want playing in your basement, screaming their lungs out about unrequited love and living in a shit-hole town whilst your inebriated friends plus rough looking random drunk dudes do the same. Emerging from America’s Midwest, an area the band obviously possesses much disdain for, Like Bats play a certain brand of gritty pop/punk that is very similar to umpteen other bands but very few are as earnest, engrossing or indeed noisy as these three lads.
Midwest Nothing packs some serious 80’s throwbacks that instantly conjure similar sentiments of such bands as The Replacements- breakneck and very angsty punk. ‘Sad Stories About Sad People’ explodes out of the blocks and one can imagine the throat gurgling punk sending specks of phlegm hurling at the audience with every word whilst the crowd dodges the odd broken splintered drumstick. As the album progresses, increasing amounts of Jawbreaker influence seeps into the music- adding some serious old-skool emo vibes in both dynamics and melodic expression. Standout track ‘Dry Heave’ begins in rather subdued fashion with lead singer Mike applying his raspy vocals and “fuck you whatever” lyrics to a simple four chord riff until the whole band erupts in angst ridden furore that descends into a delicious little fiddley emo guitar interlude before the four chords return to seal the deal. ‘This Haunted Life’ keeps things pessimistic with self-deprecating and somewhat overly familiar lyrics of emotional torment (“Waiting for someone to take the pain away/ Someone to break my heart” etc). But that’s the whole point of emo-tinged pop punk, right? This album really shines through though, when the band stop trying to play as loud and as fast and as “fuck you” as they can and permit themselves to let their musical abilities and their yet-to-be-realised ear for dynamics convey their emotions. The intro of final track ‘The Last Catholic In America’ is a prime example of this, slow building and melodically inclined guitar work over some restrained drums and simple bass lines, proving that sometimes it’s the subtleties within the music that carry the most impact. This album is definitely not perfect (whatever ‘perfect’ is) and definitely not original but it is definitely bloody good. A must listen for those who like their punk heartfelt, depressing and smothered in angst.
4 out of 5 high fives!