The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn brings out an even more powerful version of PkewX3’s punk rock.
With booze and partying as their muse, Toronto’s Pkew Pkew Pkew have been making quick beer-brewed punk since 2010. I don’t want to give the impression they’re slipshod though, they’re tight. A cranked up version of Guided by Voices? No… that’s not right. They’re like… if Ted Leo sang about being hung over more often. That’s better.
Only one track from their first full length LP, “Glory Days,” broke the 3-minute mark at 3:08. This time out, the songs are just a little longer than on previous records, but no less concise. Final track “Thirst and Humble” clocks in at almost 4 minutes!
Optimal Lifestyles showcases punchy power chords and chanting choruses that you’d expect from a punk band. But, then saxophone makes a surprise and welcome appearance on Point Break. Brilliant choice to bring it in. It’s one of the many moments of finesse that make this such an enjoyable record and sets it apart from the rest of the class.
PkewX3 are at their best when lyrics dig deep. A first person account of both struggles and benefits of their lifestyle. Depression and alcohol being intertwined as they are, it’s heavy stuff but buoyed beyond misery by the raspy, howling delivery and raucous band:
“If you pass out, you’ll be fine on the couch” – “Still Hangin’ Out After All These Years”
“Every now and then I get reminded that I don’t really matter at all” – “I Don’t Matter at All”
“Counting down the days ‘til I’m dead” – “Drinkin’ Days”
“Plans we made didn’t turn out right/the liquor store and we were waitin’ outside/had the best intentions probably got in a fight/Yeah the plans we make never turn out right” – “Thirsty and Humble”
Let me be clear, “Optimal Lifestyles” is a fun party record. It’s just smart enough to know that not every party is a great one. Only pop/dance-club numbers are obtuse enough to think every night is “the night” and that life has no consequences. I’m gonna be listening to this one at all my summer backyard parties. Knowing full well, I’m gonna have some hangovers and regrets.
Check out: “Still Hangin’ Out After All These Years,” “I Don’t Matter at All,” “Thirsty and Humble”