You Are Going to Hate This, the sophomore album from San Diego’s surf-punk power trio The Frights, now with Marc Finn on the drums, is nothing short of self-aware. Actually that self-awareness is a quality that runs deeply in the surf-variations of genres and bands that hail from California. Most of them want to make music with their friends and get drunk on cheap beer. Some musicians go overboard and over their heads, yet these surf-rock bands that keep popping up know exactly where they are musically. Nevertheless the name of this album is somewhat misleading at first glance. It is not a statement about the quality of their songs. It seems to target you personally but that “You” is not singular but plural. The album name is a message to their fans, the fans from their previous work and while the band is still riding their rockabilly, dirty doo wop sound, there are some slight variations from their previous works that is due to the production direction.
The album was produced FIDLAR’s Zac Carper, leading to a really strong influence in the difference in the band’s sound. Things are much cleaner and everything is in the right place, static in its own space. The endings of the songs match the beginning of the next like a live set of techno in a boiler room. There are layers of effects in the voices and the instrumentation materializes to fill voids that don’t need to be filled. You can’t help to feel that the album is just too aggressive in its production where most of the time a most subtle approach to the record would suffice. Watching a surf-punk band enveloped in an overproduce album is like seeing a frenzied lion trapped inside a glass display, by no doubt, interesting at first but hastily becomes unexciting as such raw power is confined and arranged in a small place.
While it is strange for a Punk band to have a name such as “The Frights” it is immediately clear that fear is a fear of growing up. That subject presents itself right away in the second song “Kids”. The track, almost written as a warning to growing up, deals with the changes that come with becoming an adult and leaving your parents’ home but, in teenager fashion, instead of addressing the issues limits to just complaint about everything. This is, in fact, the tone of the lyrics in this record. The first two tracks present you the general subjects of the songs in this album: Girls, not wanting to grow up, and trying your best to be cool. Surprisingly, being cool and stylish is something that concerns this band a lot, with Mikey Carnevale, the band’s lead singer, asking “Why can’t I be so cool?” in the album’s closer and title track, something that contrasts greatly with the casually, not-really-trying cool attitude that runs deep in the surf rock scene. In reality, The Frights don’t really fit into the revivalism of the surf-punk scene as much as they fit into the rockabilly scene with a punk edge. They’re the band that you would find playing at your high school ball with Elvis wigs on, looking up to Blink-182.
Listening to this album, it’s hard not to feel like you’re at a live concert. The songs, while sometimes juvenile in their lyrics, truly feel personal in the more ballad-like tracks. The bet on a more production-heavy approach, something the band knew would be approached with reticence from their fans, doesn’t quite fit with the raw-edge the band used to bring. While sometimes tacky, there are some moments here where the songs get an energy of their own, pulling you into a sound that induces nostalgia of when you used to feel just like that. Here is a collection of songs to soundtrack your late teen years from the perspective of someone who lived them and refused to let them go, something no one is above.
– Tiago M.