One of the greatest aspects of secular music is the listener’s ability to relate to it on some level. Most rock music is told from a adolescent standpoint, whether it be metaphorically or literally, there’s something within it’s style that just begs the listener to apply it to their own experiences. It could be something as important as getting your seemingly tiny voice heard among figures of authority, fighting against negativity, or something as mundane as not being brave enough to stand up to bullies at school or the over abundance of insecurity keeping you from talking to the boy or girl of your dreams. Whatever the occasion, rock music has your back.
One band who utilizes that a correlation is San Francisco’s Great Apes. With their power-pop infused brand of punk rock, they’ve put together one of the genre’s most solid releases of the year, California Heart.
It’s concept album of sorts that tells the story of an alienated kid growing up in Fresno, dealing with things most teens try their best to live through like awkwardness, social anxiety, bullying, and finding one’s place in the world as adulthood creeps up on you at an unforgiving pace. The open ended story is not so much an opera or overly plot driven , but thematically strung together through it’s ten songs of rapid fire rock n roll. It’s never preachy or pretentious and despite of being a sort of concept record, it never gets too heavy or wears out it’s welcome. Even though the character is fictional, it’s apparent these adolescent adventures are coming from an honest place.
The heart and soul of the album is honesty. We’ve all been this kid in some way whether we care to admit it or not, and hearing it the form of honest to goodness rock n roll makes it that much more enjoyable.
Part of the charm of the record is the no nonsense, do-it-yourself production. The guitars are crunchy and full, bass warm and heavy, percussion tight and perfectly balanced, while the vocals are front and center without being too loud in the mix (something a lot of modern bands should seriously learn). While the band’s style doesn’t stray too far from other well established bands such as PUP and Timeshares, it doesn’t rely on copping a certain influence. With the underground being over-saturated with punk influenced rock bands, creating a unique sound while maintaining genre relevance is no easy task. The chemistry between each band member creates a certain magic that can’t be mass produced, packaged and sold. It has to be real or it will tank whatever product you’re trying to sell. With Great Apes it’s fully developed and authentic.