Just when you thought it was safe to listen to music again, TV Freaks return from the grave with a psychedelic garage punk album for the ages.
Hamilton’s TV Freaks have been dancing the mutation since dropping their first demo on the unsuspecting masses ten years ago this month. Their fourth full-length, People, sees the garage punk veterans serving up ten courses of demented delicacies with all the accoutrements one could hope for. This time around, though, they are peppering a few more spices into an already flavourful menu. The resulting album may be too bold for the uninitiated but just right for those with a more seasoned palate.
Take the opening track, “Destined For Stardom”, for example. It perfectly sets the table for what’s to come with its glam-punk stomp and snotty vocals. Many of the influences on People don’t seem to stem from punk rock per se, but from mid 70s weirdo rock — now commonly referred to as proto-punk — as well as 60s garage rock. Especially the simplistic, neanderthal variety favoured on compilations like Back From The Grave and Nuggets.
From there, “Souvenir” picks up the pace, bringing a smidge of the hardcore spirit the band has built its reputation on, minus blown-out, in-the-red production. These improved sonics allow their refined songwriting to come to the forefront. Vocalist David O’Connor alternates between a bellow and a croon, which fits the manic energy of the instrumental like a fingerless leather glove.
“Living Wrong” is buoyed by a relentless, paranoia-inducing riff and lyrics to match. The chorus chant of “I know it’s safe to say that I’m ashamed to live this way / But not enough to change or try and make a great escape” is tailor-made for a shout-along by an angry mob. The song perfectly contextualizes the indifference of the digital age.
“Heart of Gold” had the honour of being People’s lead single, and rightfully so. Its dynamic, driving rhythm and captivating vocals make it an album standout. It’s an anthem with infinite replay value. Drummer Nathan Burger’s tom rolls on the chorus alone are worth the price of admission; so are the counterpoint vocals as the song begins to wind down.
“Grain of Sand” works as the perfect midpoint trou normand. It begins with a few ringing guitar notes before a plodding rhythm and plaintive vocal sets in, epitomizing a general blue collar malaise. It marches towards a contrasting crescendo that injects some optimism into the situation as O’Connor belts “It doesn’t have to be that way / It’s safer if you stay / It’s better coming home / Than being all alone / Or sinking like a stone”.
“Capital Eye” feels like a long-lost Stooges outtake and not in name alone. Guitarist TJ Charlton’s proto-punk riffing is as sharp as a razorblade, while the lyrics meld the personal with the political. “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind/If you don’t mind, I don’t mind” drones O’Connor on the second verse. You can almost draw a straight line of influence from fellow Hamiltonian’s Simply Saucer on the sci-fi themed “Space”. It’s a repetitious, rave-up that hears O’Connor howling “It’s been a long time coming, and now the time has come” just as the song begins to take flight.
“Barely Human” bounces along on a brisk bass line from Vivienne Bell before being accompanied by the rest of the band for two minutes of feverish frenzy. It’ll have you hoping these punks have come in peace. “Saturday Night” dips its toes unpretentiously into post-punk territory. The mid-tempo boneshaker is bolstered by a beguiling backbeat and simple, repetitive lyrics. It’s five and a half minutes of nervous energy, foreboding sweat-drenched dancefloors to come. What begins as a shambling pop song on closer “Silver Foot”, is all but forgotten as the track is swallowed by a symphony of static.
With People, TV Freaks have crafted their most cunningly catchy album to date. It is a psychotic reaction to an apathetic world, chock-full of memorable choruses that will be stuck in your head for days. People also sees the band embracing psychedelic leanings previously only hinted at. In essence, it’s still a punk album, but one that isn’t beholden to any conventions of what one should be. Approach People with an open mind and an open heart and you’ll be generously rewarded.