If you’ve not been exposed to Pleasure Venom yet, allow me to introduce you: hailing from our fair city of Austin, the band is composed of Audrey Campbell on vocals, Anna Charlock on guitar and vocals, Austin Reynolds on guitar, Trevor Mason on bass, and Thomas Valles on drums. The group’s sound is centered around the energy that is Campbell’s vocals, an energy which is heavily brought at live shows, but with a variety of Punk, Garage, and even ‘60s-sounding influences composing the vehicle that is this band. Their debut EP Hunt allows us a window into their world as their initial endeavor into the recording realm.
What becomes readily apparent to me about these guys is the obvious Post-Punk backbone to a lot of this music. It’s easy to fit into a title like “Post” Punk, as most things post the seventies could be this, but you can hear a lot of bands like Wire and Gang of Four creeping in with the jagged tempos of songs like the title track. Guitars have that subdued buzz to them that is so familiar with this genre, while drums are simplistic, but calculated, all around Campbell’s signature vocals, border-lining Soul, but ending up in screeches and wild pitch fluctuations.
It would behoove me to not pigeonhole these guys, or anyone for that matter, however, as there is so much else that goes on here. Songs like “Telekinetic” have a bounce and bass groove that remind me of early ‘60s Pop and Garage groups, but with an obvious distortion taking place. Besides the vocals, guitar melodies have this uncertainty and deviancy to them, and everything will break down into a cruising, groovy stampede of Punk noise, along with eerie background vocal coos and screeches. It’s a really cool fusion sound.
Where the band really excels for me, however, is in these songs like “Lemon Drop” that have a jam element to them, and seem to encapsulate several things at once. “Lemon Drop” starts with this kind of circus-y waltz around which the band dances to set the stage for what’s to come. Fuzz and jangles then collide in a quick chorus that plows along, taking everything with it in this blaze of Pop before suddenly coming to a halt. The phrasing of this chorus is then used as the basis for the next verse, adding great cohesion to the song before closing with a return to the circus as the band shows us out from probably my favorite song of theirs.
The only thing I can say is missing from this EP is the energy the band exudes at live shows, which, as many bands who have come before will indicate to you, obviously comes with the territory of doing a professional recording. Campbell does bring the noise with her vocals, which gives listeners an idea of what this band’s presence is like, along with these Punk breaks that shatter everything with volume and tenacity. But nothing can match what one will experience at PV’s live shows, and perhaps this is better as it gives the listener a reason to actually go out and see these guys, and allows their stage performance to define them.
Hunt is a great initial release from these guys as it shows off all the band’s talents while tapping into a core of a lot of what this band’s sound is. With it, Pleasure Venom give us one more reason to challenge what we think Punk is, which I always think is a good thing, and is indicative of a pretty cool band. The album simultaneously makes you want to move your hips and punch a hole in the wall, making it classic sounding in two styles, and another great release from another great band out of Austin.
Bram Howard is a music writer living in Austin, TX. He also plays in Leche.