“You gotta scream to get your point across,” sings Polar Bear Club’s Jimmy Stadt on “Religion On The Radio,” the penultimate track on the band’s new LP. “That’s our way.” There’s a heavy dose of irony in the line’s delivery; it’s not screamed but sung with Stadt’s tenor, rough around the edges as though rubbed with steel wool. Still, the song’s point rings true to the whole album—if you truly want to be heard, you need to be LOUD.
And Polar Bear Club is a loud band. On most of the songs of the Rochester punks’ latest, rhythm guitars collide with Stadt’s prickly voice against a backdrop assaulting drums. There’s still heavy melodic undertones, though, making Polar Bear Club’s music an especially hearty blend of pop-punk akin to contemporaries and past tourmates the Gaslight Anthem and Fucked Up.
Album highlight “Screams In Caves,” for example, chugs along impatiently from harmony-laden verses into an explosive chorus anchored by angular guitar riffs—call it a pop gem encrusted with broken glass. “Life Between The Lines” bounces along pogo-like while Stadt yowls about generational unrest, and “Killin It” aims for wider appeal with stadium-ready woah-oh-ohs and drums that recall “We Will Rock You.”
There’s very little room for rest on this LP, though the slower, hopeful anthem “I’ll Never Leave New York” tosses in some acoustic guitar and unexpected but strangely poignant lyrics about using candles and computers simultaneously for light in the cold New York winter. “Slow Roam,” too, is a moody ode to the underdog—complete with lyrics about the “loser museum”—that throws in some quick fretwork and swampy bass to elevate an otherwise typical rock ballad into something much more exciting, with Stadt singing himself hoarse by the tune’s end.
Clash Battle Guilt Pride sees Polar Bear Club’s likable mix of working-class suburban punk and arena rock getting glossier production. In the punk world, tighter recording comes with the expectation of a watered-down mess. Thankfully, this New York five-piece hasn’t lost any of its bite—instead, it’s made an earnest, in-your-face set of tunes that will start many a mosh pit in towns across the country when the band goes on tour this fall. Punk fans should definitely take the plunge.