It seems like every second new British band I get to hear about are operating out of Wales – what is it they’re putting in the water on that side of the border? Something that drives young men to start bands that combine punk guitars and pop hooks, perhaps… at any rate, that’s the well that Straight Lines have been drinking deeply from. The opening riff on debut album Persistence In This Game could be stolen from a forgotten track by quasi-defunct labelmates Reuben, as could the main riffs of “Antics”, but there’s a high-octane punk-pop’n'roll feel mixed in with the workaday haircut-hardcore tropes – fast paces, choppy four-chord sequences, wailing and stuttering high-register vocals.
I have something of a reputation for beating on pop-punk acts here, and not without reason – I honestly believe 90% of them are uninspired exercises in demographic box-ticking and what-they-said-isms. But as much as I’ve been put off the genre as a whole, decent tunes and energy can always win me over, and the enthusiastic tapping of my foot as I type is testament to Straight Lines‘ knack for including the good bits and leaving out the cruft. Persistence In This Game isn’t rock’n'roll rocket science, but nor is it audio wallpaper… it has just enough bubblegum snap and earnest teenage joie-de-vivre to distract you from the fact that the band are wearing last year’s suit.
Straight Lines sound a lot like Billy Talent, to be honest, with a bit of Green Day and My Chemical Romance on the side… though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The layered choral whoa-oh-oh backing vocals do nothing to disabuse me of that comparison, either – it’s catchy pop-punk dynamite, for sure, but that nasal over-vowel’d vocal style grates on me when native Americans do it; coming from a Brit group, it’s deeply disappointing. I’m still waiting for a native band to challenge the Stateside pop-punkers on their own terms, but everyone seems more interested in impersonating them than dethroning.
Selah; it may not be ripping chunks out of the status quo, but Persistence In This Game at least makes the best of a bare cupboard, and in times of famine a handful is a welcome feast. Tuck in, kids.