There was a time when punk was smart. Not some rote, four-on-the-floor exercise with its own herd of tattooed, steroidal malcontents, but a clever, informal bull session able to accommodate styles as diverse as Wire, Blondie and the Ramones. The boundless energy, machine-gun beat, blasting vocals and generous guitar roar — all conspire to classify Dillinger Four as classic punk rockers, but they’re more than sloganeering and shouted choruses, dissent and discontent by numbers. There’s a real wit and passion that recalls the spirit of old-school punk, capturing the resilience, will and hope at the center of heartfelt protest. “She wants the fairy tale ... and every time she fails/she wallows in her shame, no one but herself to blame,” sings guitarist Eric Funk on “Fuzzy Pink Hand-Cuffs,” conjuring the creeping self-hate. Throughout the album the band assails the culture’s conformist pressures, the way we’re sold our contentment and driven to regard each other suspiciously, forgetting as bellowing bassist Patrick suggests on the appropriately named “Folk Song,” that “only in your grave are you alone.” Chock-full of scabrous hooks, if not skewered by the infectious bounce, there’s always the pointed invective, but the blood on these tracks is not an excuse for war, but a reminder of what we share.
E-mail Chris Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org.