Put Downs

No Worse Off

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South Texas punk trio the Put Downs prefer the stripped-down, ultra-basic sound of early California hardcore to any of punk's other permutations. Their second album consists of 14 short and speedy three-chord thrashers, leavened with just enough melodic interest to keep from scaring off the pop-punk kids and the occasional hint of vintage early rock and roots influences. Social Distortion circa Mommy's Little Monster is a reasonable touchstone, although the atypically sweet-natured "Geek Love" strays closer to a sugary vibe akin to the Mr. T Experience. They also get bonus points for the terrific cover of "Frozen Out," an unfairly obscure slice of teenage angst by the mid-'90s Albuquerque punks Scared of Chaka, as well as a reverential version of Dwight Yoakam's "This Drinkin'll Kill Me" that completely avoids any sense of cowpunk piss-take while revealing the punky rebelliousness that Yoakam's comparatively polite original obscured. Singer and guitarist Paul J.'s originals are largely up to the standards of those two fine covers, with the snarky put-downs and Billy Zoom-style punkabilly riffing of "Hard to Get" and the hoarse defiance of the anthemic opener "Resolutions" particular standouts. In a world of off-the-shelf mall-punk bands, No Worse Off maintains the music's essential spirit.

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