Forget Genre: It Has No Place For Boy Things
Presque vu is French for “almost seen,” a phrase that describes the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon where a person is unable to recall some … what’s the word? Exactly. After listening to the newly released self-titled EP from Boy Things, a band barely ten shows into their career, most can reasonably be left feeling they aren’t sure how to describe the band. Even the band’s drummer, Eric Dryburgh, considers the band to be “some sort of indie pop punk.”
Let’s not say this is bad though. In fact, some of the best bands carry a unique sound that is hard to place in the modern musical schema; The Joy Formidable is considered “rock” by iTunes, which doesn’t well-enough account for their intensely orchestrated distortion jams and pigeon-holes them in the same category as Nickelback. Bands like Tokyo Police Club and the Weakerthans aren’t blessed with an unfairly distinguishing line – they get classified as both “alternative” and “punk.” Is the term alt-punk fair anymore, with any music swaying away from a Top 40 sound labeled alternative, and too many bands being called punk simply because of their youth? Forget genre. It has no place for Boy Things.
Clocking in at six songs, five of which are legitimate song length (track four, “Salutatorian,” is really only 25 seconds of unreasonably tight gang vocals), the Boy Things EP is truly one gem after the next, featuring Beth Hansen’s Joey Ramone style approach to singing, and her brother Blake occasionally stepping in as the counterpoint male voice, which he does in the opening song “Buyer’s Remorse.” Every song has a solid hook, be it a melody from guitarist Adam Cumiskey played in parallel with Beth, or simply the hell no-‘s in the final track “Life Support.”
Of them all, “Cannibals” stands out above the rest as a shining example of the direction the band should develop toward. The longest song on the EP, “Cannibals” is … what’s the word? Oh, perfect. From the upbeat introduction into Beth singing, “I fell in love with a cannibal,” to the clearest synth line on the album, to the guitar solo and gang vocals just before the three minute mark, the song is packed with every appreciable aspect of Boy Things. Not listening to it on repeat (for an hour or so) is a disservice to your own ears. Please treat them right.
Perhaps one of the more exciting truths of the band is their live performance. If you’re enjoying the EP, the band’s live set should knock them up a level on your must-see roster. Just this past Saturday, Boy Things played the opening set for Melissa & Paul‘s one year anniversary show at Bar 46 in Hackettstown, N.J. On top of sounding almost identical to their studio recording, the band’s energy is captivating; Beth never quits dancing, obviously digging her own band’s music, and Eric beats on his drum kit like a toy. And when Blake jumps off of his synthesizer to sing, he and Beth do not sing to the crowd, but each other, emphasizing the back and forth that the lyrics intend to portray. It’d be fair to ask why Adam and bassist Vince Rickey don’t move much, but until venues shell out the cash for a larger stage, neither of them have much room. As pillars, they do the audience a favor, providing a focal point in the middle of refined commotion.
Overall the band’s sound is forged in the fire of too much inspiration. It’s easy to pick out similarities with The Strokes, Motion City Soundtrack, The Weakerthans, and even the lesser celebrated Elf Power and The High Water Marks. With so many comparable bands, Boy Things is uniquely a group developed under serious inspirational synthesis. Knowing this, it will be hard to guess the future tonality that Boy Things will present. New music will be unmapped territory, and for N.J. musicians to not sound like every other musician in the Garden State is a serious credit.
The biggest disappointment of the EP is that it isn’t a full-length album (if only they’d doubled their efforts in studio!). It’s rare to see a freshman release with so much potential that the ears beg for more, but Boy Things has truly delivered a mighty six tracks. Considering that the album is free to download on bandcamp, it seems to be a fair trade. However, it may be in everyone’s best interest to drop the $3 on the EP if you catch them at a show. They’ll need money if you want more music, right?