For pretty much their entire existence, Press Club have felt a bit out of the loop when it comes to the machinations of the industry around them. Even compared to their peers in alt-punk, they don’t typically partake in huge album cycles or a big social media presence; hell, at the time of writing, they still don’t even have a Twitter account. The impacts of that can feel twofold—a) it may have them come across as a band for whom there isn’t a lot to say about when they are so sonically straightforward, but b) it puts much more focus on their output, far above anything else. And for a band like this who, up to now, have barely put a foot wrong in terms of brisk, brusque punk with a lot of heart, that can definitely be advantageous for them.
…in a sense, anyway. Previously, critically evaluation of Press Club has tended to cap out at them being self-evidently good, and the same can ultimately be said of Endless Motion. As ever, there’s a lot of heart to go with a rousing punk set that’s phenomenally constructed to squeeze the most out of both of those angles. At the same time though, Endless Motion also feels like Press Club’s most refined work to date, particularly in execution but really, across the board. They’re still the same great band, no doubt, but there’s definitely more here, and to dismiss that wholly under the argument of ‘more of the same’ would be undercutting things a bit too much.
Because this is an evolution, even if does feel more subtle as opposed to any huge reinvention. More than ever, there’s a sense of space and breathing room that Press Club inject, without fragmenting a punk base that’s already worked so well. Previous garage-punk strains have been notably toned back, and replaced with a rollick more befitting of a band like The Menzingers in how it bolts by. Look no further than the opening run of Eugene, Coward Street, Untitled Wildlife and Glasgow to see that benefit in full effect; the pacing is immaculate, as is the varnished, earthy tone of the guitars and bass, and the increased sense of scale adds up to something much more vibrant and openly kinetic.
It’s simply a stronger feel overall, and more indicative of punk’s evergreen relationship with ageing and introspection that runs tandem with a knack for great music. That’s boiled down to its absolute essence to fit Press Club among the cabal of bands—The Menzingers, Against Me!, you know the rest by now—and while songs like Eugene do represent that gnawing inner struggle, and I Can Change as the triumphant moment of self-affirmation and desire to move forward, Press Club aren’t merely just another stitch in the same cloth. The different, distinctly Australian perspective does play a role on Untitled Wildlife in how it addresses the country’s bushfires (plus, “This sunburnt country’s getting burned to the ground” is one of the best hooks of the year), and there’s a natural raggedness and instability that comes from Natalie Foster retaining her native accent for the most part.
She’s where the deviations between Press Club and the wider alt-punk crowd are at their widest, but also their most effective. As a presence, she’s got a weathered voice in a different way than usual, pockmarked and buffeted at opposed heartbroken but still varnished over, but with a tenacity at the centre that’s still running on overdrive. It leaves a more anxious, fractious portrayal of this kind of character overall, hammered in especially on Cancelled and its swerves into quaking, outwardly darker post-punk. There in particular, there’s an opportunity for real depth and grit to come through, and that widens Press Club’s particular skillset even further.
It’s altogether a cool next step for this band to take, especially as a means of feeling like a bigger part of a scene they may have initially only been on the fringes of. It is its own thing at the same time though, filled with electricity and verve that’s from a different punk ecosystem, and implanted her in a way that’s pretty much seamless. In other words, it’s exactly the sort of album that should cement Press Club on modern punk’s frontlines for arguably the first time. If their presence has felt a bit reclusive and hard to parse in the past, albums like this should ensure that never happens again.
For fans of: The Menzingers, Sløtface, Estrons
‘Endless Motion’ by Press Club is out now on Hassle Records.