Decent Criminal’s New EP Proves Sometimes, Success Comes Just As Much Without Planning As With

Courtesy: Sell The Heart Records/Gunner Records

No matter how much we plan for given circumstances in life, those plans can and do go awry.  Poet Robert Burns even reminded people of this reality in his poem “To A Mouse” more than 235 years ago.  It is a warning (of sorts) that independent rock band Decent Criminal obviously took to heart in the creation of its new forthcoming self-titled EP.  According to band drummer Hunter Martinez, the four songs that compose the EP’s body were not directly planned when the band recorded them.  He said in an interview that save for front man Brian Gellman’s parts, “We really didn’t have a set plan for these songs or know if we were going to put them out. We just jammed and bounced ideas off each other in the studio.”  Martinez’s statement is important to note because it shows that the desire to just play rather than directly plan paid off.  It is an approach that resulted in a collection of songs that will find wide appeal among punk and garage rock fans.    That is due in part to its musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical arrangements adds its own appeal because it is so accessible.  It will be discussed a little later.  The EP’s production puts the final touch to its presentation and will be discussed later, too.  When it is considered along with the noted musical and lyrical content, the whole becomes a presentation that every punk and garage rock fan will enjoy.

Decent Criminal’s new self-titled EP is a presentation that punk and garage rock aficionados will find itself a decent work.  Pardon the awful pun.  The four-song EP’s success is due in part to its featured musical arrangements.  As noted, the arrangements will appeal to a specific audience base.  The thing is that said audience base is itself expansive.   While the arrangements fit into a specific stylistic rock sub-genre they are also different from one another.  Case in point is the difference between ‘Drifter,’ which opens the EP and ‘Bizarre.’  Both songs have that noted garage rock style approach and sound, but the latter presents more of a 90s garage/pop punk type of sound and approach while the prior is a more pure garage rock style sound.  One can argue that there is even the slightest touch of emo in this work, again, showing even more, the difference in sounds here.  ‘Reap’ meanwhile – the EP’s second track – almost completely ignores the garage rock sound and opts more for a radio ready pop punk style sound.  The light, guitar-driven work is exactly what one thinks of when one hears the term college rock.  It is an infectious work that listeners will enjoy just as much as the record’s other arrangements.  Between this arrangement, the others noted, and even that in the acoustic take of ‘Bizarre,’ which is appealing all in its own way, the overall musical content featured in Decent Criminal does plenty to make the record worth hearing.  

As much as the overall musical content does to make Decent Criminal interesting, it is just part of what makes the record work.   The EP’s lyrical content adds its own touch to the record’s overall appeal.  That is because it is so accessible.  ‘Drifter’ and ‘Bizarre’ each seem to focus in different ways.  ‘Drifter’ hints at the noted topic as it states late in the song’s nearly four-minute run, “You were the best/You never left/You stayed for what is real/You’ll never know I loved you so/Can’t change the way you feel.”  This opening line alone hints at a relationship that has seemingly met its end.  The lead verse heightens that sense as Gellman sings, “I took the car/I took it far, till I was frail and thin/I nearly died along the ride/Not sure where I’ll begin/When the will is gone.  In other words, the song’s subject allegedly left after the relationship ended, racing thoughts and all.  As the song progresses, the retrospection continues with the subject stating, “Down at the bar I watched you far from everything you’ve seen/I craved escape there in the wake of living my worst dream/And I’d like to go, but inside you I feel whole/And to your own empire, set it all to fire, outright.”  This is almost an old school country music   style line about being at the bar.  One has to assume here, that the note of seeing “you far from everything you’ve seen” hints at maybe the woman being in a better state and the man not liking seeing that.  It would explain his comment, telling that other person to “set it all on fire.”  It’s like there is some anger there, telling that other person sarcastically, to throw away everything that the couple had.  It is an interesting way to broach such a familiar topic.

‘Bizarre’ on the other hand, is more plaintive, for lack of better wording.  That is evidenced as Gellman’s subject sings, “I still see you everywhere/You’re always in my heart/But no plea, no call/We don’t speak at all/You truly are bizarre/I could not repeat what you have, what you’ve done/Pack it in/Money spent/Board it up/What a blast though we’ve had.”  There is no anger here.  There is more sadness and confusion in this setting.  It makes for another interesting lyrical presentation that will connect with listeners in its own way.

‘Reap’ is just as accessible as ‘Bizarre’ and ‘Drifter.’  This song’s lyrical theme is an exact reflection of its title.  It is song that reminds listeners that they are the only ones who are responsible for their place in life.  That is evidenced as he sings, “You cultivate this world you know/Because what you reap is what you sow/You pick your family and friends/These obligations are pretend/To see if from my point of view/Can’t you? You tell me/You’ve had it up to here with pageantry and games/But you’re still playing/‘Tis the season to roll your sleeves up/And go for it/Give me a reason gloves are on/I’m sick of this shit.”  A song cannot be possibly more direct in its statement.  It’s that indictment of those who want to point the finger at everyone else for their situations.  This message will help listeners deal with those people without facing off with those people directly.  When this theme is considered along with those other noted lyrical themes, it becomes clear why Decent Criminal’s lyrical content is important.  Together with the record’s musical arrangements, the overall content makes for reason enough for the band’s already noted audiences to hear this EP.  The collective content is just a portion of what the EP has to offer audiences.  Its production brings everything together.

The production of Decent Criminal is important to address because it is this aspect that gives the EP the laudable indie sound and feeling that it presents.  The fuzz in the guitars and airy sound of the vocals in ‘Drifter’ is a tribute to the production work put into the record.  The “raw” sound comes across as so natural.  It serves to highlight the comments about the band coming into the concert without a real plan, and makes the EP that much more enjoyable.   On a similar note (no pun intended), Gellman’s vocals in the acoustic take of ‘Bizarre’ are just as raw.  They sound so natural.  That DIY approach and resulting sound will appeal to plenty of listeners.  By direct contrast, the slightly more polished sound of ‘Reap’ gives the EP a slight change of pace.  That change, together with the more “pure” sound that the production gives the other songs, makes for an overall experience that proves the production paid off here in its own way.  When it is considered along with the impact of the EP’s overall content, everything noted makes the EP a presentation that any punk and garage rock purist will enjoy.

Decent Criminal’s new self-titled EP is a presentation that will appeal widely to fans of the punk and garage rock realms.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements.  The arrangements exhibit the sounds and styles of the noted genres.  The EP’s lyrical themes add their own appeal, as they are accessible.  The EP’s production rounds out its most important elements as it brings everything together here.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the EP.  All things considered, they make the EP a viable candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new EPs.  More information on Decent Criminal is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:




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