Recording information: Noisy Little Critter, Downingtown, PA (12/2014).
Mable is the third LP from Pennsylvania pop-punks Spraynard, whose straightforward, unmistakably earnest style helped them become a staple of the East Coast D.I.Y. scene in the late 2000s. They recorded a couple of well-received albums for California indie Asian Man Records, then, just as their star seemed to be rising, they put the band on ice in 2013. Their hiatus ended up being a relatively short one and before long they'd begun playing shows to an increasingly enthusiastic fan base who heralded their return. Now signed to Jade Tree Records, they offer Mable, a streamlined ten-song effort that, at the outset, feels like a very meat-and-potatoes, suburban pop-punk affair. But simple suburban pop-punk is Spraynard's bailiwick and their unpretentiousness is part of their charm. Still based out of the Philadelphia suburb of West Chester where they grew up, Pat Graham, Mark Dickinson, and Jake Guralnik manage to sound heavy without really relying on emo histrionics or aggro catharsis. Like anyone, they have regrets, frustrations, and sadness, but there's nothing politicized or theatrical about the songs on Mable, which occasionally delve into coming-of-age themes and the search for motivation, like on the song "Pond." Introspective explorations of relationships and friendships make up much of the album's lyrical content and are generally delivered in digestible two-minute punk bursts with unchallenging, almost wistful chord sequences and structures. A pair of slower songs, "Bench" and "Out of Body," break up the album's pace a bit, but for the most part, Spraynard hang out in their wheelhouse, playing thoughtful and upbeat pop-punk. While their world of dispirited suburbia might seem uninspired on paper, they do what they do well, owning their sprawl-induced heartache on everyman anthems like "Applebee's Bar" and "Home." Just because you're likely to run into Spraynard at Target doesn't mean they're not making worthwhile art. ~ Timothy Monger