A singles collection carries some presupposition of weight. “Here are all of our singles,” we seem to be told. “Dig in, but don’t try to take it all in at once.” But in the world of Useless Eaters, where miniature shots of under-produced proto-garage and punk rock are the order of the day, the fat has been drained to the point that the expansive-sounding Singles: 2011-2014 in actuality consists of a mere 13 songs spread across a compact 31 minutes.
A loose grab bag of songs from the San Francisco/Memphis band’s previously released 7-inches and EPs, Singles isn’t nearly as exhaustive and comprehensive as the title might lead you to believe. But the collection’s brevity, its immediacy, is its strongest weapon. Seth Sutton, the band’s songwriter and creative engine, is a proud student of the Jay Reatard school of mucky garage rock, one that preaches the virtues of cutting through the bullshit and leaving the rough spots unpolished. He puts that tutelage to chiseled good use, cruising through fast but furious cuts about outsiders (“Difficult”), cool cars (“American Cars”), and other surly punk rock fodder (“I Hate the Kids”).
Between the buzzsaw guitars, muted drums, and Sutton’s vocals buried beneath a carnal mix of the two, the collection sticks to an ugly, no-frills formula that was penned by scores of bands before it. But considering that punk rock has always been less concerned with blazing new trails than punching listeners squarely in the gut, Singles’ familiarity doesn’t cloud its commitment to the form. At least Sutton takes good notes.
Essential Tracks: “Difficult”, “The Moves”, and “I Hate the Kids”