The Lowdown: Years of playing loud shows at little venues, experiencing the grunt of a punk scene dominated by Brooklyn indie bros, and headbanging until they couldn’t tell the floor from the ceiling have led THICK to the release of their debut album, 5 Years Behind. Guitarist Nikki Sisti and drummer Shari Page formed the band in 2014 and were joined by bassist Kate Black two years later when they released their debut EP. While the band started out with a limited amount of music to stream, they became somewhat of a fixture in the Brooklyn DIY live music scene. Their live show was a singular experience, complete with exhilarating guitar solos and band members jumping off amps, instigating mosh pits in small spaces on shaking, creaky floors of Brooklyn bars and basements.
The trio’s swirling power chords, upbeat drums, and rounds of choruses have always lent themselves to THICK’s earliest musical influences, like Green Day, New Found Glory, and blink-182 (band members have frequently been seen sporting an “I Miss Tom Delonge” t-shirt). The three members sing separately and together, sometimes harmonizing as an ode to the vocals of Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge, sometimes shouting to represent the anthemic pop punk gang vocals of yesteryear. THICK have since released two more EPs and signed to punk label Epitaph last year, showing off a noticeably more clearly mixed record.
The Good: As we all wonder what will define the next decade, THICK accurately summarize what keeps many of today’s twentysomethings up at night. Sisti, Page, and Black sing that while they feel years behind some of their successful peers (thanks, Instagram), they also fear that they have slept through the best years of their lives, coming close to some kind of expiration date. Their friends change, their hometowns have somehow gotten even worse, and the venues that raised them are shuttering (Brooklyn’s now closed Shea Stadium and Palisades come up in “WHUB”). The pressures of getting older and society’s dos and don’ts of adulthood weigh heavily, especially on pure punk delight “Your Mom”. “Have a baby!” “You’re always late!” “You’re not an artist!” scream the band in between a quick guitar riff.
Despite THICK’s laundry list of things that are “bumming them out,” they manage to make every song feel like their uplifting live show. The concept behind “Fake News” makes the band’s average listener wince, but THICK make a case for bravely screaming and jumping along to the words. “Mansplain”’s conglomeration of crashing sounds and biting sarcasm provides relief from the actual statements told to the band and their friends that are quoted at the beginning of the track (“Are those your boyfriend’s drums?”and “Girl bands are really in right now” are highlights). The closing track, “Party With Me” allows the band to leave listeners on a free and joyful note, almost like an encore. “Chug your beer!/ Take off your clothes!/ And call your mom!” the women sing in unison. You can’t help but agree with them there.
The Bad: Writing political punk songs that are fresh in 2020 is a difficult feat, and some of the tracks on 5 Years Behind fall short of landing a punch. On former tracks, the band once shouted about periods and male arrogance with hilarious, fearless abandon, using their own experiences and emotions to feed into their songwriting — and their screaming. On this record, too-brief mentions of guns, reproductive rights, and the men in office only skim the surface of the band’s anger, feeling like a namedrop of buzzwords and wokeness. This is especially apparent on “Won’t Back Down”, which feels like a telling of anger, rather than a showing of it. The specified anger on tracks like “Your Mom” and “Mansplain” are far more impactful for this same reason.
The Verdict: On their debut full-length, THICK are solidifying their status as a pop punk band at a time when the state of pop punk is relatively murky. In recent years, more and more of the pop punk and emo outfits that have heavily influenced bands like THICK have been called out for the misogyny in their lyrics and performances, as well as for some of their actions (See: Brand New). Discoveries new and old have led people to wonder if there is any progressive hope for the genre at all. THICK answers that question, subverting pop punk stereotypes by singing about their own experiences as women in the music scene and beyond, while still using the same drum patterns, chord progressions, and anthemic sing-alongs that brought the genre so many adoring fans in the first place.
No matter how much progress has been made, three women onstage continues to be a radical act, and according to THICK’s “Mansplain”, it’s a treacherous act, too. As the band develop their recorded music style into the potential that their live act already fulfills, perhaps their next step is not only to add on to the pop punk genre, but to reinvent it completely. Until then, THICK will bring 5 Years Behind to their live show, providing more opportunities for headbanging, trying to temporarily forget all of the understandable reasons that they’re angry.
Essential Tracks: “Your Mom”, “Mansplain”, and “Party With Me”