by Nick Hanover
Where have all the good brats gone? I remember a time where seemingly one out of every three new punk releases was coated in snot and bile hurled from the violently grinning face of a ceaselessly bobbing young thing. This didn’t mean there was a shortage of music constructed out of righteous political fury and breakneck rhythms, there was just a better equilibrium, the brooding and plotting balanced by the shit stirring anarchic glee of modern incarnations of the celestial trickster. Thank Loki for Dregs, then, as they’ve arrived when we need them most, looking and sounding like refugees from a lost sequel to Jawbreaker: they almost certainly killed the teen dream and I, for one, have no problem dealing with it.
Dregs’ eponymous debut EP, which came out digitally back in October but will be released on tape this coming Tuesday, May 29th, is bratty mayhem incarnate, five tracks all sonically representing the experience of a big brother forcing you to slap yourself with your own hand while asking “why are you hitting yourself?” The signature moment comes early on with “Blowup,” a song that doesn’t start so much as it explodes from the speakers, Runaways riffs and blunt drumming fighting with rather than supplementing the vocals. Figuring out what’s actually being said is next to impossible so you only hear snippets of lines about fucking up someone asking for a smile before the track veers off course, twisting into something like an early X single, with joint male-female vocals yelping in tandem with the guitars. It’s muddled and messy and so goddamn addictive.
In the rare moments where Dregs try to take it a bit slower, like “I Witness,” a delicious tension builds as you wait for the inevitable snapping point where the muted guitars and drum rolls burst apart, releasing riffs more like shrapnel than hooks. Or in the case of sleazy LA garage rock number “Idiot,” you get the opposite, the vocals snapping and snarling over some relatively restrained backing music before calming down for a chorus where the music rises and rises to reflect the ticking time bomb the lyrics reference.
Despite the abundance of West Coast influences peppering Dregs’ debut, their catchiest track, “King Kong,” has more in common with local heroes A Giant Dog and their ’70s ancestors the New York Dolls. “King Kong” reimagines the great ape as the patron saint of the temper tantrum, a misunderstood lunk who just wanted to pogo around downtown and drunkenly make out with strangers to some gutter glam but was too big and too bold for this savage world. By the end, if you’re not down with the ape cause, you’re a heartless jackal with no sense of fun and good times.
Dregs may not share the stature of Kong but they can throw a temper tantrum with the best of them and if their talent continues to grow, they may very well pave the way for a new brat punk order. Until then, I suggest you put on your biggest boots, hawk up as much phlegm as you can muster and get snotty.
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