Northampton-based garage pop and indie rock trio Hammydown excels at tapping into youthful angst with charming, sarcastic glee on its debut five-song extended play recording, “Pizzaface,” released July 21.
At its heart, Pizzaface is a record about dual identities and hidden personas — the disgruntled demeanor of working a shitty day job is often masked by a smiling face. This is a record that speaks in a universal language about deep insecurities and a fear of being imprisoned by mediocrity.
Hammydown is the brainchild of Abbie Morin (electric guitar, vocals), who is the principal songwriter for the trio, and is accompanied by Joshua Speers (bass, vocals) and Jacob Burnstein (drums).
The record opens with the title track, “Pizzaface,” a catchy mix of grunge rock and garage pop with twangy bass lines, bright and clear guitarwork that evokes 1990s bands like Pavement or Weezer, and sparse sing-song, haiku-like lyrics.
“Set the date/ Change my mind/ Slip into the package store/ Off the clock/ Counting dimes/ Never adds up anyway/ Swipe the card/ Gets declined/ Brush it off it’s all the same,” Morin sings with breathy croon inflections mixed with nasally sarcastic delivery.
The chorus of this song is anthemic; it could serve as the theme song for every loner high school or college student eating lunch by themselves in a bustling and crowded cafeteria. The music itself is a bright energetic burst of slacker rock nostalgia and an ear worm that invites listeners to revel in that feeling of being a loser and to find comfort in the fact that adolescent awkwardness is oftentimes the norm.
“Snap my magic markers/Still won’t be erased/ Only I can see it/ My self-drawn pizza face/ Stuff myself in a locker/ To bask in the disgrace/ Only I can see it/ My self-drawn pizza face.”
“Automatic Sweetheart” starts off with quick and twangy minimalistic electric guitar work from Morin and melodic drumming that pops and bustles with the beat. Morin delivers vocals that are crooning and intimate with lyrics that are wickedly clever in speaking about the drudgery of work such as “Just a catatonic phone call” and “All day tapping on the space bar.”
One of the highlights on Pizzaface is “Migraine,” a song that starts off meditative ballad with a hooky guitar line, before evolving into a tense head-banging grunge rock implosion. Morin’s vocals soar on the song’s chorus, with unwavering high notes that evoke feelings of hopelessness.
Lyrically, this song features unusual imagery, including “split knuckles on the tree” and “gag on your penny mouth,” that work as foreshadowing to the song’s main focus — speaking with a friend about suicidal thoughts, “Cause, you told me that you wanted to die,” Morin belts with heartache that makes the room spin.
“People You May Know” grooves along with a sense of purpose — it’s a song about being fed up with an acidic bite. “Don’t default to me/ ‘Cause I’m too far gone for honesty/ Don’t default to me/ ‘Cause I let go of the novelty.” The sarcastic humor drips off the lyrics like pizza grease.
Pizzaface’s best strength is Morin’s songwriting; odd and cleverly constructed lyrics and catchy melodies that are memorable and evocative. The arrangements to the songs are simple basement rock staples — guitar, bass and drums — with no frills or added studio wizardry. It’s the same music that you’d likely hear if you saw the band live. The only drawback to this record is that a lot of the songs blend into one another and it can be hard recalling which song was which.
On a whole, though, Pizzaface is an EP with sophisticated songwriting centered on creating basement pop choruses that ring out and evoke rousing emotions carrying its listeners far away from the humdrum of a 9-to-5 work day.
To listen or purchase Pizzaface visit http://www.hammydown.bandcamp.com.
Chris Goudreau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.