Pkew Pkew Pkew – Optimal Lifestyles

Canada’s Pkew Pkew Pkew have a name that it is impossible to say aloud without a smile on your face. They could be forgiven for sticking to the formula with Optimal Lifestyles, instead, they have continued to push the boundaries of pop punk and the surrounding musical styles.

This is a sophomore album of sorts, their debut was re-released with added songs and they have since put out a live album. From the off this is a release packed with energy and excitement and to an extent, there are elements of the pop-punk playbook expertly followed, tight drums driving from the back, infectious guitar hooks and huge choruses are embraced. Even within the first song ‘Still Hanging Out After All These Years’ this formula is pushed and molded into something completely original. There are elements of the chaos of Bomb the Music Industry, a Rancid style guitar solo and a vocal filled with both gravel and sweetness. There is a lot to pick up on within every second of this release.

As tracks follow tracks there are moments of utterly sublime indie, the guitar line in ‘I Don’t Matter At All’ could fit into the best Strokes or Interpol releases. This is an album that charts the development of decades of alternative music, with every listen there is a new reference point musically, on first listen it seems like a record of 2-3 minute toe-tappers but it is far from that simple. The power pop of ‘Drinking Days’ combines knife edge sharp harmonies with a vintage guitar sound linking the Gaslight Anthem with a Face To Face style more traditional pop/melodic punk sound. If one thing is clear at the halfway point this is an LP full of future singalong moments.

These infectious choruses will be instant earworms, ’65 Nickels In My Pocket’ is a fine example of catchy songwriting. Listening to a little harder there are serious 80’s vibes to the bass lines which feed effortlessly in to ‘The Polynesian’ which has a Bruce Springsteen charm to it. Around this point, the positivity of the lyrics begins to work some magic and create a smile as infectious as the choruses. The guitar and vocals in ‘Skate 2’ take a humorous and ultimately joyful turn towards glam rock without ever losing the effortless track to track flow.

This flow is incredibly effective at conveying emotion,  despite the overall sense of positivity ‘The Pit’ tackles behavior in the music scene and the opening to ‘Everything’s The Same’ gives the exact right amount of time to reflect on the content of both songs. The sparse piano and instrumentation that slowly joins have the feeling of the most heart-wrenching Owen songs but somehow leads beautifully into the explosive ‘I Wanna See A Wolf’. Once more there is a clever use of humor and this moves the emotions back to positivity and this is the perfect way to signal the beginning of the end of a great record. This humor follows within the incredibly relatable ‘Adult Party’ which is a shout out to getting older and continues in the catchy future singalong vibes. With a nod towards Black Flag ‘Thirsty and Humble’ is a rousing slice of gruff punk, filled with infectious hooks and makes the perfect closer to an album filled with surprises to discover.

These surprises hide in the tiny moments that nod towards an entire musical history, this is an album that even on first play sounds comforting and familiar, this is due to some incredible songwriting and musicianship. Every additional play creates a musical Easter egg hunt for more and more hidden moments. As an album this is defiantly a good use of a record budget, the longevity will make it a great investment.

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