Pitchfork (Website) - "KAMIKAZE has a slightly slicker, glammier edge than its predecessors, as well as some unobtrusive strings on a couple of tracks, but the peppy backbeats, gang-shouted choruses, and fist-pumping enthusiasm remain."
Audio Mixer: Mike Mogis.
Recording information: Big Fish Studios, Encinitas, California; Second Base Studios, Brooklyn, New York.
Arranger: Adam Reich.
Like the eponymous dive-bomb of the album's title, the Brooklyn D.I.Y. punk quartet's third studio album, Kamikaze, is a crushing blast of old-school-punk hero worship. It's also the band's catchiest, most muscular, and most layered release. Almost a decade into their existence, the So So Glos have matured and tightened their execution, making Kamikaze a huge leap past their already 2014 breakthrough, Blowout. Musically, the album is a pure joy. Packed with sneering punk anthems reminiscent of the Clash and Rancid, they ramp up the energy like nothing they've produced before, resulting in an untamed and spirited effort that manages to be both well-produced and still ferocious. According to the band, amidst a self-implosive dark period, the album almost wasn't made. Luckily for listeners, the band of brothers -- Alex and Ryan Levine and Zach Staggers -- and bassist Matt Elkin forged ahead with these 12 tracks. The drums land harder, the riffs slash deeper, and Alex's vocals deliver that trademark sneer with a curled upper lip. The title of the album is loosely based on the Japanese World War II suicide attackers, but the So So Glos twisted the meaning to make a statement about 2010's culture -- a society bent on self-destruction. On penultimate track "Down the Tubes," they warn "If I'm going down the tubes, I'm taking you down with me too/Cause after all that we've been through, it's the least that I can do/Kamikaze, I'm gonna take out everybody." That sentiment cuts and jabs throughout Kamikaze, like on lead single "Dancing Industry," which features a cover image of a monkey staring at a smart phone and an oversaturated refrain that "too much is never enough!" They carry the vitriol forward on the overstimulated "A.D.D. Life," as well as targeting the ails of prescription culture and mental woes on "Inpatient." While these may be millennial first-world problems, the denouncements still slash, whether they're giving the middle finger to social media ("Magazine"'s feral chant of "f*ck my newsfeed!") or faux-scenester sentiment (the challenge of "give me a reason to give a sh*t" on the raucous Hives-esque takedown, "Cadaver"). They even surprise with some backing strings on "Going Out Swingin'," "Devils Doing Handstands," and the Baroque Beatles-y "Sunny Side." The midsection of Kamikaze is packed with highlights, from the exuberantly propulsive "Kings County II: Ballad of a So So Glo," the vaguely dancehall jam "Fool on the Street," and the metal-edged stomper "Cadaver." There isn't a weak song here, and there's enough variety to keep it exciting without losing any thrill. On the album-closing "Missionary," the So So Glos pull a nice fake-out, starting with a quiet acoustic introduction before the band crashes in explosive unison, screaming "Nothing's gonna stand in my way/Nothing's gonna bring me down!" At this point in the band's development, it's a hopeful cry that more of this goodness is yet to come. ~ Neil Z. Yeung