Pop punk is a strange sub-genre. Normally, you won't find bands that pigeonhole themselves with a dress code and membership rights. However, there is a world of Ramones-derivative bands who wear leather jackets year-round and change their last names as a mark of honor. When the Strait A's namedrop the genre on "Pop Punk Boys Are Girls" on the new 7" Use Your Delusion I, they are putting themselves in that limited category and opening themselves to easy criticism. However, this split with Sarasota's Rational Anthem puts them in a different bracket.
Rational Anthem takes Side A with two fast, cynical songs about longing for more out of life. In "You Tell Me" there are some interesting guitars between the three-chord structures, but the band is ultimately an unrefined Dear Landlord, with rough vocals from Chris Hembrough and an ample supply of "whoa-whoas."
Once flipped over, the Strait A's immediately go for the dance floor. "Pet Project" alternates male-female vocals in a catchy, playful manner that overrides their own use of the dreaded "whoas"--all in under a minute. The back and forth shows a range of influences, notably '60s pop. To take that description further, the closer "Gotta Make the Move" sounds like equal parts Beach Boys and the Queers, with the familiar verse chorus verse structure and notable harmonizing, but faster and with the guitars louder in the mix.
On first listen, this record didn't stand out, but Strait A's are a grower and the peppy energy wins the day after a few repetitions that will drive the melodies into your skull. The Strait A's are no longer active, but members continue in Red Phone Dispatch and God Damn Doo Wop Band.
Preview tracks off of Use Your Delusion I and purchase the 7" over at JunoDownload.