7" review: Brokedowns/Sass Dragons

The split 7" is a punk rock staple and a great format for bands that play fast, aggressive music. It maintains its energy while the brevity limits overplay before the adrenaline wears out. Cassette Deck/Let's Pretend Records presents two Chicago-area bands in the Brokedowns and Sass Dragons, each with their own complementary sounds.

The Brokedowns sound like their influences, but not in a derivative way. There are poppy song structures and gritty, catchy choruses reminiscent of D4 (not to mention the song titles), but there's also an angrier, noisier edge to the band. While most punk bands favor vocal tradeoffs, the Brokedowns will frequently have three members screaming in unison. Sometimes the band is harmonizing, but mostly they vent their anger en masse. What it creates is a resolute, communal feeling. Even if the content is depressing, there is something uplifting through the in-it-together vocal expression. All three songs are good, but "Viking Birthday Party" stands out among the band's best. "Full on Idle" is a Breeders cover -- though without the liner notes, I wouldn't have known.

While the Brokedowns are straightforward, Sass Dragons bring more style to the record. Musically, they owe a lot to the early glam rockers, utilizing the sleaze without the superficiality. And, of course, they speed it way up and add in a touch of early 80s punk attitude. Vocalist Jason Smith's presence is felt on record nearly as much as during their live show.

Stylistically, each band brings a familiar, yet distinct sound, making this is a record that can be enjoyed by any fan of aggressive music, not limiting itself to the punk aficionado. 

The Brokedowns/Sass Dragons split 7" is available at the Recess Records online store.