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Album Review by Roy Peak

Vann Hardin

Apes of the States
This City isn't Big Enough

Released March 11, 2016 

Fun DIY folk-punk upstarts get it right.

I've been wanting to write a review of this Pennsylvania-based group for quite a while. The last time I felt this way about a band may have been the first album by Garbage, or maybe Brenda Kahn's genre-altering and highly energetic and intelligent Epiphany in Brooklyn, or it could be The Singles by Bikini Kill—hell, there's elements of all these that remind me of the fun, smart, rocking, memorable, and striking DIY folk-punk music by the most glorious Apes of the States. 

Some folk-punk bands are purposefully out of tune, drunk, condescending, or full of false bravado or feigned apathy, yet Apes of the State are straight-edge, tuneful, caring, hopeful, honest, and they rock out with unbridled passion.  

April Hartman, the lead singer and acoustic guitarist, may have some of the most intelligent wordplay going right now. Honest, confessional, forthright, observant, funny, smart lyrics about life as a "white middle class 20-something pissed at the economy" as she states in "Bill Collectors Theme Song." She sings about old girlfriends, potential new girlfriends, paying bills, and getting on with life after "being a junkie didn't live up to the hype."  

The violin, or fiddle, if you will, (no, no, no let's go with violin, as Mollie Swartz, who plays the violin here with the Apes, utilizes classical forms and constructions. Folk this may be, but it's not bluegrass or country in the least) throughout these songs is simple, yet never boring, nor ever flashy. In the true punk rock tradition, this may be loud and brash, but it's not show-off music. Everything serves the song, from the knife-like fiddle thrusts, the mandolin trills, the occasional harmonica burst, to the background vocals which chime in often with perfect comedic timing. And, yes, punk rock it may be, but the Apes are always (mostly) in tune, and like Beethoven famously said "To play a wrong note is insignificant, to play without passion is inexcusable," and the Apes have PLENTY of passion. Romantic passion, unrequited love passion, social injustice passion, straight edge passion, passion about life, the future, burning bridges, and loads of musical passion. Gina Arnold, in her book Route 666: On the Road to Nirvana, states that "...there should be more synonyms for violence, including one that does not imply either injury or rage." Apes of the State are the embodiment of those missing synonyms. Their songs are very in your face, yet not exactly violent. They shout to be heard, not to cause injury. Their songs are short bursts of passion and asperity, they rail against the state to make their case, and they will not be ignored. And they're definitely having a blast in the process, and it shows. 

Seasoned bands can learn a thing or two from these upstarts. 

Download or buy a CD right here: https://apesofthestate.bandcamp.com/
 

But wait! There’s More! Like many DIY media-savvy millennials the Apes of the States have a few fun videos to check out, so here’s a few of them. But, be careful, these aren’t exactly safe for work. But they are guaranteed fun. 

“Bill Collectors Theme Song”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftE4D4xRqso

 “Sober Intentions”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU42oiZvnrQ

 “Conversations with the Self-Centered”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kRU6fXzHEo

 

Roy Peak
April 19, 2018