Bum Out’s Pain Don’t Hurt has Some Missteps but Still Stands Out

by Brian J. Audette

Bum Out Pain Don't Hurt

There really is no “typical” punk release when it comes to Austin and yet for some reason Bum Out’s Pain Don’t Hurt seems unique among this diverse group. Softer than our hardcore, less experimental than our avant garde’s, and coarser than our pop punk, Bum Out describe themselves as “bummer punk” though I might use the term proto emo. It’s a sound that combines a healthy dose of punk angst backed by fuzzed out guitars and the occasional catchy hook and on Pain Don’t Hurt yields mostly good though also somewhat mixed results.

While Pain Don’t Hurt is the first release under the Bum Out name, my initial exposure to the group came via their former incarnation Come and Take It and their 2010 7” Forget It?. Stylistically Bum Out’s sound and approach are very similar: a coarse lyrical delivery backed by the fuzzy crunch of guitars. It sits somewhere between early Hüsker Dü, Jawbreaker, and Shellac on the sonic spectrum and lyrically captures some of the same frustrated melancholy as well.

While Bum Out’s sound is well tuned, I found myself taking issue with the structure of several songs. The album starts off innocuously enough with the titular “Pain Don’t Hurt” – a competent rock song with a hint of bar punk riffage in its delivery – then follows up with “En Tres” a song whose hooks are reminiscent of the post-hardcore, 90’s alt-rock adjacent noodlings of the pre-mainstream emo era. About 2 minutes into the song though, it throws a wrench into its own workings with a segment that (while less than half a minute long) just doesn’t seem to belong and tonally stops the song dead in its tracks. I’ve tried to justify it to myself several times, but on each listen I feel as if you could remove the section from the song entirely and salvage what (up to that point) is a strong track.

The same thing occurs again (though less intrusively) on “Empty Handed” and “Effort”, segments that aren’t bad in their own right, but feel out of place in the larger composition. What makes it all the more noticeable to me is that up to those points in the songs I’m really enjoying myself and then for 20-30 seconds something feels … off. While less egregious, a couple other tracks have similar issues and though mostly perfect, just come up a little short in the end. “We All Know” early in the album is actually built on a really good hook and a great progression, though the bridge feels one bar too long. “Cope” is another solid track (probably my favorite on the album) though the riff on the chorus feels like it needs to be stretched just a tad longer to really come alive.

At times I felt like a producer listening to Pain Don’t Hurt“Drop this section,” “stretch that,” “think about adding a second guitar to make those harmonies pop.” It was a weird sensation and likely occurred because for the most part I really dig what Bum Our are doing here. More than once in the last couple of weeks I’ve caught myself with bits of these songs running though my head and when I go to exorcise those musical apparitions by listening to said tracks, I feel rewarded by doing so.

In the end however, it’s those small qualms that stop me in my tracks faster than I-35 traffic. I won’t say to give Pain Don’t Hurt a pass because I do believe there’s something good here, but take it with a grain of salt. If you’re looking for something a little different than our standard punk and hardcore fare here in Austin and don’t mind a few minor stumbles, this may be for you.

Bum Out is playing this Friday, February 12th at Beerland with MeanGirls, New China and Sherman’s March.

Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at brian@ovrld.com or on Twitter at @bjaudette.