Sharkpact: Ditches

Wayne Campbell: Hey, Tiny, who’s playing today?
Tiny: Jolly Green Giants and the Shitty Beatles.
Wayne Campbell: Shitty Beatles? Are they any good?
Tiny: They suck.
Wayne Campbell: Then it’s not just a clever name.

Sharkpact does not suck. And they are not just a clever name. Although this scene from Wayne’s World is the first thing I thought of when I downloaded their name-your-price album Ditches for zero dollars, upon retrospect, I should probably throw them some coin considering the space Sharkpact has taken in my heavy rotation.

For the uninitiated, Sharkpact is a punk rock duo from the Pacific Northwest consisting of drums and keyboards. Pause. Now throw away any comparisons to Mates of State or whatever crappy keyboard/drummer bands you are thinking of in order to write off Sharkpact. Ditches is an innovative approach to popular punk, a lively kick to a genre many think dead.

Opener “Ocean” is a lively anthem emblematic of what Sharkpact does best: 80s-style synths, quick tempos, whoa-oh-ohs and an endearing one-take/best-take punk rock urgency. “Service” follows up, a 4-chord monster that, for all its predictability, transcends stereotyping, shifting between Camille’s throaty wail and the signature dual vocal chorus that first captured my interest.

Wilderness” pulls Sharkpact in a somewhat different direction, eschewing some of the peppiness for a moody fuzzed-out synth behind a blistering blastbeat. While these departures help make the album sonically diverse, as a listener, I’m ready for the hook to kick back in, for the electro-pop-punk chorus to take over.

Ditches is a sincere and commendable achievement. In fact, it reminds me of better days–days when bands were less concerned about what was being written about them on the internet, and more concerned with what they were doing in their home scenes. Sharkpact remind me of the latter. And when I hear mid-album cut “Spring,” off of Ditches, I’m grateful that I don’t think about facebook pages, twitter accounts or even music blogs like this one, but of house shows, cd-r demos and good friends. I’m a nostalgic bastard, but Sharkpact manages to bring out the best aspects of that nostalgia.

But for all the praise, Ditches falls short in places. Tracks like “Cement” lack the same vocal inspiration as others, and lyrically, Sharkpact, like many pop-punk bands, fails to impress. We tread familiar themes, primarily nostalgia (although the marine/aquatic thread throughout the album is praiseworthy). The album is also plagued by a false closer, a 4-track recording of random voices and psychedelic effects.

Sharkpact clearly isn’t breaking new ground, but that’s not their intention. They are about having a good time, about wailing vocals, sing-a-long choruses, and most importantly, reminding you that punk rock still thrives in certain communities. And for the pay-what-you-want model for Ditches, it is certainly worth a listen.

Interested? Get their album for free here.

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