Sunday, April 21 2024

Underdog, an alternative rock ensemble originating from Boston, Massachusetts, has unleashed their second album, ‘Trans Global Amnesia‘ subsequent to the well-received debut, ‘Ether Dome’ in 2020. This collection of twelve compositions manifests as a dynamic tour de force, characterised by supersonic sounds and a mayhem of guitar virtuosity.

Founded in 2013 by Scott Ferguson and Bryn Carlson, the duo, who first crossed paths in the early ’80s and collaborated in various bands, co-wrote their debut album. However, ‘Trans Global Amnesia’ showcases the exclusive songwriting talents of Scott. Influenced by ’60s Garage Psych, ’70s Hard Rock, ’90s Alt and Blues and putting them in a hi-speed blender, Underdog created a unique sound that’s interesting and unusual at the same time.

From the very first note of the opening track, ‘You Told Me‘ it’s evident that these musicians are poised to rock. A robust guitar riff, a pulsating bass, and thunderous drums set the tone for this dynamic album. As the vocals kick in, echoes of punk influences from the ’80s become apparent. Ferguson’s raw, aggressive, and distorted vocals encapsulate the quintessence of rock. The dense mix may obscure the lyrics, but that’s the punk spirit! It’s unmistakable that this band revels in creating raw and heavy music.

In ‘Helsinki Airport Blues‘ the heavy guitars unleash a Chuck Berry-inspired rock and roll riff. Surprisingly, instead of an aggressive sound, a happy, joyful tune emerges. The contrasting title adds humour, as the guitar riffs and vocals exude happiness. Carlson showcases his guitar prowess in this track, with a driving beat provided by the drums. Close your eyes, and you can envision Fonzy-like kids (from Happy Days) dancing to this sophisticated yet cool song.

Summer Song‘ feels like a pop-punk, power-pop anthem where the upbeat vibe from ‘Helsinki Airport Blues’ persists. These tracks stand out as my personal favorites with their up-tempo beat, cheerful guitars, and carefree nonchalant vocals. It’s the kind of music that would make festival-goers bang their heads. The reminiscent vibe of Rancid, with less ska and more punk-pop, adds to the infectious energy. Following a Middle Eastern or Arabian-inspired instrumental interlude in ‘New World Saga‘ the band returns with a hard-rocking, Ramones-esque number in ‘Rocket Baby,’ with another standout guitar solo by Carlson.

In ‘Louie and Marie‘ a confluence of influences, drawing parallels with the Butthole Surfers intertwined with a ‘Wild Thing’ ambiance, provides a welcomed reprieve before the album reverts to second gear with ‘Echo Of A Dream‘, ‘Munchausen By Proxy‘ and the instrumental tour de force powerhouse, ‘K-9‘ encapsulating the raw punk ethos that underpins the album.

In ‘Mallus Maleficarum‘ the band explores psychedelic noise rock with striking intensity. The song is a bold departure for the band, showcasing their willingness to embrace extremes in tonal dissonance while infusing the rhythmic vigour of punk. The saturated distortion on the guitars and bass contributes to an otherworldly atmosphere, reminiscent of the avant-garde elements found in the most daring corners of the psychedelic genre. ‘Mallus Maleficarum’ serves as a standout moment in the album, offering a dynamic contrast to the more polished and upbeat pop-punk melodies that precede it. In drawing parallels with Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissing,’ the comparison is not merely coincidental but an acknowledgment of a shared ethos. Both compositions share a common objective: an unapologetic pursuit of volume, as if engaged in a sonic competition to be the loudest.

Demonstrating a commendable versatility, the lead guitar and solos in ‘Regeneration‘ and the concluding opus, ‘Blow Your Face Off‘ are executed with masterful precision. ‘Blow Your Face Off’ assumes the semblance of a weighty blues composition, characterised by the ensemble’s distinctive and heavily distorted sonic sound. The composition’s climax, featuring an assertive solo followed by a serene yet crunchy guitar picking, culminates in a formidable rock solo. The song concludes with a wall of sound, providing a perfect ending to this remarkable album.

‘Trans Global Amnesia’ is a 40-minute showcase of raw energy, featuring resonant guitars, pulsating basslines, dynamic drum beats and vocals delivered with a tangible sense of aggression. The album navigates a spectrum of emotional states, effortlessly fusing cheerful pop-punk melodies with the raw ferocity of early punk rock, the classic rock and roll influence reminiscent of Chuck Berry, and experimental industrial noise rock, drawing inspiration from the likes of the Butthole Surfers. Underdog adeptly harmonises these varied stylistic elements, crafting a seamless thematic journey. Their unique sound pays homage to the essence of punk, leaving listeners eager to bang their heads once again when their third album hits the airwaves.

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Review

Summary

Underdog’s ‘Trans Global Amnesia’ is a dynamic tour de force, blending influences from ’60s Garage Psych, ’90s Alt and Blues, Punk, Rock and Roll and Pop Punk. The result is a unique and intriguing sonic experience; the album expertly navigates a diverse musical landscape.
81%

Rating

song quality
vocal performance
lyrics
instrumentation
production
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About Author

Gee Nelson

Gee Nelson has been a musician, producer and songwriter since the '90’s. Besides music Gee loves reading, writing, watching British sitcoms and playing board games. His biggest influences are Green Day, Nirvana, Offspring and Eels. His favourite genre is 90’s and early 00’s (indie) rock.

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