Top Button, Bottom Shelf

Written by: TL on 03/01/2012 20:45:38

Oh wow you guys, do you remember me? Once upon a time, I was a steady reviewer here! I seem to remember enjoying it, so let's give it another try, starting off with "Top Button, Bottom Shelf", the debut album by New Jersey punk-rock quartet Banquets. The record admittedly has been out for quite a while now, and I've had it for quite a while, and I've been listening to it for quite a while too, I just haven't gotten around to writing about it. I'm not surprised to hear and see that Banquets seem to be gaining momentum as a band though, given how their style is in line with the sort of North American punk-rock that has had somewhat of a golden age lately, with bands like Living With Lions, Banner Pilot, Off With Their Heads, Red City Radio, Carpenter (etc. etc. etc.) all coming out with great records that have made the art of playing energetic, melodic, rough punk-rock seem alive and vibrant.

So that's all good right? So why haven't I written about it before now? Well, unfortunately being in a genre that's buzzing with quality means that even if you're pretty good, you're still in danger of drowning in better competition, which is one of Banquets' greatest problems if you ask me. And this has more to do with songwriting than with sound, because with the bright, ringing, buzzy guitars, the main vocal with the slightly rough edges and the driving and mostly straight-forward rhythms, Banquets are doing something highly similar to what everyone else in the genre is doing. The problem is putting a finger on anything that makes them stand out, and that means it eventually becomes all about who can consistently put out the best songs.

That parametre of course, is not exactly easily measureable, but speaking my subjective mind, I guess what I'm saying is that Banquets don't quite measure up to their competition in this department, and this is their sole downfall. Their sound is consistently and predictably enjoyable, and they have a small handful of decent tracks, such as "Lips To The Ground", "Fireplug" and "Heads Down, Thumbs Up", which I think would work very well live. They just still lack that something which makes you feel like you're looking at one of the best bands in the genre. This is no problem of course, if you're among those who feed themselves melodic punk-rock for breakfast, lunch and dinner - in that case, "Top Button, Bottom Shelf" should fit nicely in your collection - but in a case where one needs to choose (or grade), I guess I'd still rank these guys below the likes of Polar Bear Club, Living With Lions and Carpenter.


Download: Lips To The Ground; Fireplug; Heads Down, Thumbs Up
For The Fans Of: Red City Radio, Banner Pilot, old Gaslight Anthem,

Release Date 23.08.2011
Black Numbers/Bear Trap

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