Softballs Are Too Hard (2019) by Suburban Bicycle Gang is a deeply hidden garage-rock gem. At times, the debut album is reminiscent of proto-punk sharp-tooths like Urinals and Thinking Fellers Union. Other stretches of the record remind me of twang-riddled, garage-rock filth like The Gun Club and early Stooges.
The lyrics are not lyrics. They are words. Poems. They are simple, tactful and sincere. There is nothing dishonest here—it is a raw cake with a bloody little cherry on top. Softballs are Too Hard is a contrary, slacker’s dream. Its members are more intellectual than they want to express through music. The debut album is free of the illusory conventions of rock and roll and lends nothing to pretension.
The album opens with a weighty backbeat played with dinosaur bones instead of drum sticks. I am not lying. Lyrics slide out of the singer’s mouth like slop and tar. They preach indiscernible to a drugged-out mob too vexed to care about the expressed ideological views of so-called punks. The guitars are subtly mistuned. Deliberate or not, they chime with a distinct charm that compliments the raw power of this drunken, dusty record. Bass lines floss between tight notes and greedy chords as a grunting backline punctuates its shape with fat, heaving chugs. An instrumental song called ‘Cuck’ breaks through the grease and pollution with psychedelic flutes, naked guitar and an agreeable bass line. The album is volatile but vulnerable. It’s garage-rockabilly, western-twang deserves the light of day.
The album is a good example of how unpolished production is as much of an instrument as instruments themselves. You can hear it in the pitter-patter of a snare drums and in the pinch of hazy licks. It is such a slacker-rock record, but it has all of these instrumental embellishments like flutes, saxophones, harmonicas, which may seem uncharacteristic at first, but when you really think about where this record is coming from, you might not be surprised that woodwind instruments pair well with a heaving soundtrack for lazy sex, shitty drugs and rock n’ Rollform. This is Cambridge, baby.
Genres: Rock, Slacker, Punk, Proto-Punk, Garage-Rock