Skate punk, generally speaking, is a musical neighborhood of burnouts, drifters, and goofballs driven by a proud indifference to pretty much everything. The songs are typically short, the tempos are fast, and the subject matter is fun but also simplistic to the point of lunacy. Anyone want to take a stab at guessing what the Descendents were getting at on “I Like Food”?
By calling their second full-length Jaded and Faded, Brooklyn’s Cerebral Ballzy clearly aim to settle further into their chill-brah, too-carefree-to-give-a-shit station in life, right? It would be easy to assume so, especially considering how the band’s 2011 debut cribbed squarely from the collective songbook of Black Flag, Adolescents, and a handful of other bands who stained Southern California’s easy-living image back in the day. To cop a line from Bad Brains, these boys got that attitude. That much hasn’t changed on Jaded and Faded, but the script is now a bit more interesting. With help behind the boards from TV on the Radio’s eternally in-demand Dave Sitek, the band diversifies its sound just enough on its second go around to give the tunes a little more staying power.
Tigers don’t change their stripes, and there’s still plenty of amped-up, first wave punk rock mayhem to cut through. But take a listen to “Fake I.D.”: The menacing guitar lines have the turbulent feel of Sonic Youth — that is, before the band loses its cool and delves into a chorus fit for Suicidal Tendencies. “Lonely As America”, at a hefty 3:11, might be the band’s most earnest stab at an honest-to-goodness pop song, even if it still sounds like a slowed-down version of Pennywise minus the afterburner intensity. They might still be learning a thing or two about restraint, but they’re making a more-than-honest effort at trying their hand at new things.
It’s little surprise that Jaded and Faded is for the most part defined by the band’s loving throwbacks to the Dead Boys (“Downtown”) and its scores of skate punk ancestors. But the album is most interesting during the fleeting moments where they get their heads out of the gutter. Even in moderation, those instances give Cerebral Ballzy a bit more lift. The chops have been there from day one. It’s just that this time out, the songs are worth hanging around for a bit more.
Essential Tracks: “Fake I.D.”, “Lonely As America”