Parker, from Derry, Northern Ireland, are upfront about their love of pop-punk. The band met as teenagers and bonded over a shared love of Blink 182 and the influence is pretty clear on their debut album, Never Let This Go. Songs such as Ride On, Superhero and Ruin My Life have a definite 2000s pop-punk sound, albeit with a grittier feel, particularly in the vocals. And while the songs are catchy and fun as hell, the production (from Cahir O’Doherty of Jetplane Landing and New Pagans fame) ensures that the sound is more raw-edged than saccharine and is all the better for it.
Opening track, Never Miss, actually brought to mind Jawbreaker more than Blink, with it’s chunky bassline and staccato guitar riff. The lyrics are simple and effective and the chorus fist-pumpingly big, especially when everything kicks back in after the middle eight. And the rolling guitars that introduce Problems are reminiscent of Title Fight in one of their gentler moods and has lyrics more emo than pop punk – “Please ignore me anyway it’s just another wasted day…I know I can’t depend on anyone” – while the chorus and guitar solo could be Pixies.
Let’s Not is a straight up banger with chiming guitars, a buzzing bass and a huge chorus, while Superhero really leans into the 2000s era pop punk sound – it even does that thing where the vocals sound like they’re being sung down a phone line for a couple of bars before everything comes back in even louder than before.
This Life Will Harden Us All really changes it up, coming on like Bright Eyes to begin and finishing like The Weakerthans. “Everything you know to be true will likely change and everyone you love will slowly fade away but you’ll be okay – it’s nobody’s fault”. It’s a message that life is difficult and disappointing and beats down on you but that’s just how it is and that’s okay. It does the thing The Wonder Years do of being simultaneously downbeat and uplifting and is a real highlight.
Ruin My Life is another pop hit about bad decisions – “I’m gonna ruin my life for you, I’m never gonna do anything I wanna do, I’m gonna give up my dreams for you” – while Ucluelet (a small town in Canada apparently) bounces along and rolls around before we hit another highlight for me, Home With You. I was a teenager in the early 90s and had this come out then I’d have been all over it. It’s a perfect slice of 90s alt rock with guitars two parts grunge to one part shoegaze. It could be Sloan or Smashing Pumpkins and is amazing.
Vancouver rounds out the record in reflective mood – “I’ll never take another swing cos I’m afraid I’ll miss” – and Parker have delivered an album of indie punk that’s substantial enough to mark them out from the crowd. The guitars sound amazing, the vocals too and there’s a depth and charm to the whole endeavour, particularly lyrically. If you like your punk rock anthemic and singalong but also emotive, thoughtful and slightly rough around the edges then Parker are your band. I can’t wait to catch them live when they tour next month and you should come along too.