On their sophomore album, Melbourne’s Bench Press have tightened their sound and hammered out a focused approach that whittles away any excess. Built on a bedrock of muscular postpunk, the band brings an unusually milkfed force to the typically wiry genre. The guitars still bend and contort, attempting to squirm away in distress, but the frame they’re fashioned to is fortified by knotted bass grooves, a thick pummel of drums, and the gruff growls of singular singer Jack Stavrakis. The record works hard to avoid the typecast tropes that have bogged down so many in their field, giving the crushed glass crowd a hardcore makeover.
It’s really Stavrakis’ oversized personality that pushes Bench Press out of the common channels that modern day post punks have allowed themselves to be filed. His voice swings wild, almost always at a gale force gusto, deconstructing doubt, self-care, self-improvement, and hypocrisy. From the name on down, the band seems like it should be a bro’s dream of dirgey hooks, and testosterone stained 20 rep jams, but the band’s self-aware, turning their bombastic frustration into a manifesto for change, not status quo.
When the band’s edges are sharpened and their hooks are harnessed right, it’s a powerful record that charges breathlessly at any target. Occasionally it stumbles, with the flipside cooldown “Take It Slow” going at it a bit literally, and bogging down the energy. For the most part, though, this is another win for Poison City, an angular, damaged punk rumble that’s bashing at all the right recipients.
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