ALBUM REVIEW: Pkew Pkew Pkew – Optimal Lifestyles
Canada’s Pkew Pkew Pkew have a name that it is impossible to say aloud without a smile on your face. They could be forgiven for sticking to the successful formula with Optimal Lifestyles, instead they have continued to push the boundaries of pop-punk and the surrounding styles.
We hit play and it is instantly clear this is a release packed with energy and excitement. To an extent there are elements of the pop-punk playbook expertly followed, tight drums driving from the back, infectious guitar hooks and huge choruses are embraced but there is so much more to this sophomore release.
Even within track one Still Hanging Out After All These Years this formula is pushed and moulded into something completely original. There are elements of the chaotic Bomb the Music Industry, a vintage Rancid style guitar solo and vocals filled with both gravel and sweetness. The record develops into a tour of alternative music, sure there is a punk/pop-punk focus but there are so many small nods towards an almost endless selection of bands.
As this release develops there are moments of utterly sublime indie, the guitar line in I Don’t Matter At All could fit in to the best The Strokes or Interpol releases. With every listen there is a new reference point musically, on first listen it seems like a great record of 2-3 minute toe tappers but it is not a simple release at all.
Drinking Days combines knife edge sharp harmonies with a vintage guitar sound linking The Gaslight Anthem with the modern power pop of PUP. If one thing is clear at the halfway point, it’s that this is an LP full of future singalong moments. These infectious choruses will be instant earworms, 65 Nickels In My Pocket is a fine example of catchy song writing.
Once more after a few listens there are serious 80’s vibes to the bass lines which feed effortlessly into The Polynesian. There is a hidden Bruce Springsteen charm to the playful guitar and bass lines. The guitar and vocals in Skate 2 take a humorous and ultimately joyful turn towards glam rock, without ever losing the effortless track-to-track flow of this well considered release.
The smart, honest lyrics are incredibly effective at conveying emotion, once combined with the ever-tight musicianship there is a winning combo. The overall sense of positivity is challenged with the lyrics in The Pit, which tackles behaviour in the music scene. The opening moments of Everything’s The Same give the exact right amount of time to reflect on the content of both songs. The sparse piano that slowly joins and absorbs focus has the feeling of the most heart wrenching Owen songs, but somehow leads beautifully into the explosive I Wanna See A Wolf.
Ferocity and humour follow within the relatable Adult Party, which is a shout out to getting older and continues in the catchy future singalong vibes. With a nod towards Black Flag, Thirsty and Humble is filled with infectious hooks and gruff punk vibes making the perfect closer to an album filled with surprises to discover.
With an endless sense of discovery this is the kind of album you can listen to again and again. With all the infectious choruses and hooks we can’t wait to catch Pkew Pkew Pkew live in March, or with Spanish Love Songs in May.
Standout Tracks: 65 Nickels In My Pocket, I Don’t Matter At All and The Pit
For Fans Of: PUP, The Gaslight Anthem, Weezer
Written by: Ben Adsett