Tha Retail Simps: Reverberant Scratch: 9 Shots in the Dark

Montreal’s Tha Retail Simps play a rickety, unhinged punk ‘n’ roll. The kind of swinging skronk that comes from blowing money that you don’t have on old records that you don’t need—and then scraping together the change to get drunk at an old-man bar with a busted cigarette machine that shouldn’t be there in the first place. This is garage rock for people who have to take the bus.

Assembled out of such Canadian underground luminaries as Kapa Chow, Protruders, and Itchy Self, Tha Retail Simps stake a new claim to a territory first settled by the gaggle of Creem-obsessed delinquents that helped generate punk’s first upwelling, and with maybe a hint of the beer-blast-fueled thud of prime Anyway Records. Reverberant Scratch: 9 Shots in the Dark, Tha Retail Simps debut for the Total Punk label, is full of musical piss and vinegar in the form of sub-basement-level guitar licks, random saxophone honks, and a barrel house piano from hell. It all adds up to a cacophonous but somehow charmingly groovy mess of a record, like if the Electric Eels recorded an album’s worth of NRBQ covers (or vice versa). It might not be cutting age stuff, but it nonetheless feels completely appropriate for the times.

Tha Retail Simps are Canadian, but they excel at a uniquely American subgenre of punk that never completely dispensed with the notion that rock ’n’ roll, as God intended, might get us through this mess called life. Singer Joe Chamandy brings a barstool philosopher’s intellect to his lashing out at the wrongs and aggravations one can encounter in a decaying society, deftly shifting his vocals from a snotty bleat to an incredulous, exasperated roar as the situation demands. Indeed, songs like “25 Step Program” and “Acceptable List of Games for a Socialized Human to Play” rail at what sometimes feel like the utter futility of it all. It can be a bleak outlook at times, but when push comes to shove, Tha Retail Simps know the best remedy remains, as “End-Times Hip-Shakers 1 & 2” makes so clear, to fill the dancefloor and live to fight another day.

Rating: 7.9/10

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