Hailing from Russia, Biting Elbows are a band who have gone from doing well in their own country, to supporting Guns N Roses and Linkin Park in the space of a month. This is no easy feat, especially by "an independent, self-releasing band". And in amongst all this, the Russian punks have managed to record their self titled album, albeit across 5 different studios in Moscow.
Biting Elbows kicks off with the band's forthcoming single, Toothpick. Clean guitars give a ska feel to this song. Not something I would really associate with punk, or at least, generic punk. Although you can hear a definite influence from the likes of Rancid, this still caught me off guard after reading that this album was a "collection of 12 killer, dark, affected punk tracks".
The album then speeds up and slows down at regular intervals, with City of No Palms and Rabid Red having real upbeat skate-punk and 80s hardcore influences, but then dipping with Angleton and Hype Waltz. The latter sounding like what I imagine the Arctic Monkeys would if they donned baggy jeans and a pair of DCs. Then, all of a sudden, we're whisked away again by Scaffolds on the Babylon, a real, aggressive, punk track. This is what I expected the whole album to be. And luckily, by the time Kill The Cooks starts playing, I'm treated to another blistering punk track that I can't get enough of; it's a pity that hardcore songs only last a few minutes a piece.
Biting Elbows ends on One Night in '99. This song has a proper ska-punk feel. And, surprisingly enough, turned out to be my favourite of the 12. It's because it was a ska-punk song from start to finish. The vocals really suited this track, and it's a shame, as during the last few minutes of this album they finally hit their stride. We're treated to some brass and even a harmonica. It's a fun track, and one of the only ones where I couldn't stop pressing repeat.
Regretfully, Biting Elbows is an album that doesn't know what it wants to be, even though there are some really great moments in there. If this album were a ska-punk, skate punk, or even hardcore punk, record from start to finish, I'd be singing it's praises non-stop, because this is a band that are brilliant at what they do. But, it seems they just can't choose what to do. There's nothing wrong with mixing genres together and being creative, but the differences in tracks were a bit too blunt. With some tracks being full of energy and fast punk bass and drums suddenly becoming a ska song, and some tracks that seem quite forgettable, this album seemed to draw me in, and just as I was getting in to a song, it would drop me. Fortunately for the Russian quartet, the good outweighs the bad. And I believe if it weren't for the off-the-mark description, I might have been more prepared for (after a quick visit to what their Facebook revealed to be) indie-punk. With that in mind, this is a great indie-punk band. And although I'd rather button bash kickflips to it in THPS2 than listen to it as intensely as I did, it's still a fun album that's definitely worth a lot of attention.
Biting Elbows by Biting Elbows is out on July 23rd via Misteria Records.