by Nick Hanover
Most Austin punk bands are curiously sexless. Maybe that’s a symptom of their hardcore roots, the obsessiveness over St. Henry Rollins rather than those patron saints of orgasm addicts the Buzzcocks, or even the libidinous androgyny of Lux Interior. I suspect a healthy appetite for sexual experimentation is a big part of why Popper Burns declare themselves “Too Punk for Punk” on their self-titled debut, going so far as to mock the muscly Black Flag frontman himself with their confession that they’ve been “Making out with pictures of Henry Rollins,” before pressing those pics to their body and rubbing them in their sin. I don’t know what most Austin punk bands are rebelling against– condos? Gerard Cosloy’s stern disinterest?– but Popper Burns are easy enough to figure out. They’re rebelling against a staid scene where too many of their peers sound like some latter era SST knock off and have the rhythms of a speed thrusting 15 year old dry humping a pillow. See, Popper Burns don’t want to fuck you up, they want to fuck you.
If “Too Punk for Punk” and its desire to molest yr idols doesn’t serve as proof enough, Popper Burns also devote themselves to acquiring some “Vitamin D” and they don’t mean sunshine. Over a herky jerky rhythm that asserts itself a thrust at a time, Patti Melt rattles off some doctor’s orders about fulfilling a certain deficiency, initially outright demanding the d before dialing it back a bit and begging a bit more submissively. Like the Ex-Models’ “Sex Automata” filtered through the Swell Maps, “Vitamin D” is a testament to urges, an acceptance of their inevitability and an embrace of their potency. Or as the band puts it on the dreamier “Pretty Little Pig,” “You’ve got an appetite for pleasure/And a love love love of overconsumption.”
“Pretty Little Pig” lyrically sums up the band’s hunger pretty well (except I suspect it’s more likely about gainer culture) but it also serves as a helpful reminder that Popper Burns are a band with a wide array of sonic appetites too, unwilling to stick to a strict regimen of B-52’s quirk matched to James Chance angularity, instead equally enamored with the queer punk throwback textures of Hunx and His Punx or in the case of “Body Issues,” some bizarre amalgam of Beat Happening twee and DC hardcore. Patti Melt’s vocals serve as a guide, capable of morphing from sassy monotone to unhinged punk screech at the drop of a hat, but don’t neglect the envious abilities of Pink Lemonade’s guitar, equally capable of shifting styles or the way Sigourney Fever and Dixie Lixx glue it all together in the rhythm section. Good bands find a sound and nail it, great bands, like Popper Burns seem poised to be, constantly challenge your notion of what their sound even is.
Popper Burns may have even surprised you before you heard their debut, what with their choice of “Albert Einstein” as an advance single. Shimmery and stuffed full of post-punk anxiety, “Einstein” is a curious choice for a preview of the album, not necessarily “pretty” but imbued with the texture of a looming stormcloud that impresses you with its haunting palette. When the band premiered it at the start of the year, I mistakenly expected Popper Burns to be Marquee Moon cultists rather than No Wave sex criminals, but within the context of the album it makes sense: desire is sometimes lust but more often it’s longing, a desperate howling in the night for a lover not to leave you alone.
You could also read that as a plea for the band to get some love and attention itself, for potential listeners to perk up at Popper Burns’ eccentric display of quirks and variables and forgo the usual Austin punk routine of amping the guitars up to 11 over a drummer who doesn’t play the kit so much as obliterate it. Popper Burns maybe aren’t as loud or as sweaty as all that but they’re the kind of partners who will keep you surprised and wondering what other tricks they might have in the nightstand. So you can go ahead and take the shirtless tattooed lug home and find out if he’s too drunk to fuck, I’ll stick around and find out what kind of adventures Popper Burns has in store.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover