A substantial portion of my musical education occurred in my early 20’s. Luckily for me, the early 2000’s was a heady and electric time for all manner of underground rock music. While radio rock was still controlled by a very odd blend of nu metal growling and post-grunge groaning, I fell in love with every possible stripe of emo and punk. Sure, the music was still powered by plenty of guitars, but I really connected with the emotional energy more than anything else.
So, when Dead Dance Club by MANIAC hit my ears, I was instantly transported back to the front seat of my 1997 Toyota Corolla.
As I drove all over the greater Houston area listening to acts like Fifteen, MxPx, The Hives, The Strokes, and The Vines. Released in June 2018 on Dirt Cult / Hovercraft Records, this delectable record combined the buzzy sheen of ‘00s revivalist garage rock with the glammy goodness of ‘80s goth-pop. It veritably burst with the swagger second-wave punk rock, and to its credit, it never tried to be anything more than that.
Over the 28 minutes, the band delivered 12 songs that bristled with punchy hooks, straightforward arrangements, and no-frills guitar rock. I was also impressed with the quartet’s crisp musicianship, in that for all the punk energy on display, you can tell that these gentlemen were locked in tight when laying the tunes to tape in the studio.
I’m all for bands having fun during the recording process in hopes of capturing the passion of a live show, but I also appreciate that MANIAC opted to be professionals so that people like me could truly appreciate the stellar background harmony vocals, subtle lead lines, and superb drum fills.
A strong middle third does the heavy lifting for the entire project. “Calamine,” “Modern Love,” “Children of the Dirt,” and “Living in Stereo” showcase the hard work these four guys put into creating guitar-bass-and-drums rock music that struck me as familiar in the best possible way.
By aiming for classic instead of revivalist, MANIAC swerved wide of sounding reductive or retread.
So, yeah, I’ve heard the sounds presented on Dead Dance Club many times before, and I’ll return to them many times in the future. But what matters is that I will always vouch for a band that intentionally crafts a worthwhile update on a nostalgic sound without attempting to be sonic revolutionaries. Sometimes, you just want to listen to the comfortable sounds of good rock music without being pandered to or feeling forced to fend off soppy sentimentality. And MANIAC has delivered exactly that – and I couldn’t be happier.
Despite all of the cliches you might have heard about the place, Adam P. Newton actually enjoys living in Texas – most of the time. He currently creates and curates content for a marketing agency, and in his limited free time, he writes a memoir about his journey through music called “Explaining Grownup Music to Kids.”
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