Punk for the 21st century

Debut EP by Sonic AM is the modern epitome of ‘punk’.


When we think about something musical as embodying the spirit of Punk or even being punk itself, more often than not we will expect intense guitars, vicious energy and biting social commentary. It’s this dated expectation that has led many of us to disregard punk as anything even remotely interesting: it’s all run-of-the-mill guitar music we’ve heard before, right?

Cue Sonic AM, the latest rock outfit that has come to epitomise the very essence of punk without being your typical kind of four-powerchord band. With the release of their debut EP, What We Do When We Do Nothing, the band have firmly established themselves as more than just another ‘punk-leaning rock band’ and have instead positioned themselves as possibly the only band to really understand the genre.

Though the EP certainly does play coyly with this fact. Track three, Others Ethics, for example is your typical heavily-drummed, frantically-strummed frenzy of sound that is a minute and a half of relentless angst-fest. It’s the kind of track that would fit right into the debut album of many late 70s/early 80s punk movement-inspired upstart band, just several decades late to the party. Does that make the song bad? Of course not. In fact, it’s a rare moment of stereotype adherence that pays in the band’s favour.

Every other song verges between indie soundscapes and acoustic-led brief balladry, all with a crudeness and urgency that is punk’s lasting message. Red Brick Houses, for example, is musically as far detached from modern punk referentialism as possible, but its urgency is undeniable – even as the acoustics climb around on melodious tenterhooks. Then there’s the grunge sounds of Alexandria and the garage-rock musical shitstorm that is Dead End, which play around on the outskirts of punk. It’s incredibly well-calculated, and even better executed.

While many original punk acts prided themselves on their limited musical knowledge, Sonic AM revel in their understanding of how music is formed and how genres are distinguished and, eventually, misinterpreted. The band define themselves as a punk band and, spiritually, they are the modern equivalent of the New York Dolls, XTC or Television. Musically, however, they are very much themselves – raw, unwavering and determined to draw everybody in to their two-minute vacuums of punk-rock liberation.

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