ALBUM REVIEW: Pkew Pkew Pkew – ‘Siiick Days’

Artwork for Pkew Pkew Pkew’s ‘Siiick Days’

Back in 2019, Pkew Pkew Pkew were making some legitimate plays to be the spiritual successors to The Menzingers. Their album Optimal Lifestyles put down such an airtight understanding of what makes this kind of alt-punk great, with arguably the most comprehensive wave of success they’ve experienced to date following. Since then though, Spanish Love Songs have lapped Pkew Pkew Pkew by an almost unassailable degree, and the wind has been taken from their sails almost completely. They released the album Open Bar last year that received next to no attention, though that could partly be attributed to the shadow of pandemic theming still looming over it a year or two late. And when that’s propped up next to Spanish Love Songs’ Brave Faces Everyone, appearing in the same field but a lot more timely and wracked with a weight that Pkew Pkew Pkew have truthfully never gotten as close to…come on, the winning team is obvious.

Then again, the bar has been set so incredibly high, and using that as stick to beat Pkew Pkew Pkew with isn’t fair in the slightest. No, they aren’t cutting as deeply as some of their better-known contemporaries, but everyman punk does still have a place for them among its storied halls. At the same time though, they are also victims of a higher floor that necessitates this kind of alt-punk to really up its game, and Siiick Days isn’t quite what it needs to be to match up.

Which is to say, in any regular context, Pkew Pkew Pkew would still be doing very well indeed. Siiick Days has the litheness and the humanity that’s a much-appreciated feature in alt-punk, as well as the likable, easygoing charisma of frontman Mike Warne who doesn’t have a single air or grace about him. Hell, the opening track The Dumbest Thing I Ever Done is about Warne selling his PlayStation, and then wanting it back again after getting bored in lockdown; that’s how stripped bare of pretense Pkew Pkew Pkew are. And while still being tied to pandemic-era theming is a crutch that’d be so easy to shift and see the benefits of, it’s less of a direct connection and more a series of scattered memories that bubble back to the surface as a result of quarantined ennui. (The only song song to explicitly reference the lockdown is Johan, which is basically an interlude as it is.)

But that’s where Siiick Days’ lack of lift begins to feel like a true-blue flaw instead of merely a feature. Again, it’s exacerbated when compared to acts like The Menzingers or Spanish Love Songs, and the dirt they’ll mine from vignettes like these and introspection running through them. There’s weight and pathos and often anguish there; Pkew Pkew Pkew, meanwhile, approach with a broader, lighter tack that’s much less steadfast. Conceptually, there just isn’t the same mileage in flashbacks to bar scenes on Goodnights,or breakups on Trooper Cover Band, or touring memories on Hot Tub Or Bust. The intrinsic weight of age doesn’t play the same role, and as a result, a key characteristic of a band like Pkew Pkew Pkew is absent in a very noticeable way.

Maybe it’s an unfair comparison to make. After all, there’s still a lot of great lyrical flourishes and word choices that have the exact right kind of charm—the humbleness on The Dumbest Thing I Ever Done, and a strong sense of narrative and place on The Night John Buck Hit Three Home Runs. But on the whole, the confluence of minor dings to Siiick Days’ exterior prevents it from really crossing the line. The content is one, and then that’s compounded by the lighter indie-punk sound and the brisk, completely unembellished length. Learning To Share and Trespasser On The Tracks are the main culprits there, doused in tones much more familiar to indie-rock that dissolve the burnished maturity of alt-punk, or even the rabble-rousing spirit of punk in general. It colours Siiick Days rather a lot, and yet again, sees some important elements begin to unspool in ways they shouldn’t. Though, it’s never an outright disaster, and there’s enough of the old ways to Read Receipts and Goodnights to ensure that Pkew Pkew Pkew still have some of that classic magic going for them.

On the whole then, Siiick Days is a bit of a mixed bag, certainly more than albums like this usually are. The foundations are unshakable, as they always have been and likely always will be, but what’s built upon them this time is decently less substantial, and the contrast can’t really just be brushed away. Alongside the high standards of alt-punk, Pkew Pkew Pkew are buffeted from both directions with unfortunate consistency, and are cut back by it arguably more than they deserve to be. This is still pretty good, particularly when divorced from its home scene, but that’s an incredibly hard feat to manage when shadows cast by its top players are so unbelievably long. More a stumble than an outright faceplant then, but one where the brunt of it still counts for a lot.

For fans of: PUP, The Menzingers, Direct Hit!

‘Siiick Days’ by Pkew Pkew Pkew is released on 22nd September on Stomp Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

Leave a Reply