The first full length album from Gambier, Ohio’s SPORTS clocks in at svelte and distinct 21 minutes, over the course of which the band eschews any pretext of pretension and settles on an unmistakably youthful tone. Very much in the vein of contemporaries Jawbreaker Reunion, SPORTS seemingly derives their voice from experiences navigating the perennial wilds of prestigious Northeast colleges, bringing in an element of pop-tinged malaise to their depictions. It is precisely this voice, that when coupled with their endlessly catchy brand of punk, makes Sunchokes so alluring.
It would not be a massive stretch to understand Sunchokes as a something of a collegiate journey in its own right, progressing from the often tragicomic freshman year to further stages where a mix of complacency, resignation, and wry enthusiasm take over. The opening two tracks both lyrically explore the strange initial couplings in those early years; the first track “Tiny Planets” opens with the line, “Spend the night in the crook of your arm, I held too long and now he’s gone.” This is a relatable sentiment regardless of educational experience, but amplified as such by the particular hormonal volatility of being 18 and surrounded almost exclusively by other 18 year olds. These early tracks follow this progression neatly, on the next track, “Nowhere to Be”, singer Carmen Perry explains, “So what if it’s not working, I’m a jerk, and you’re just hanging out? We aren’t getting any younger.” SPORTS impressively execute, continuously holding down grooves with guitar lines that move between aggressive and aggressively dancey.
The following three tracks on Sunchokes veer into the realm of “catharsis jams,” and parlay some of the most infections musicality on the album with the band’s best songwriting. The standout track of the album comes in this grouping, the sub two-minute “Clean Jeans”, in which the ever human sentiment, “I don’t give a shit” is literally brought into play. Driven initially by four-four hi-hat smashing and gruff distorted licks, “Clean Jeans” runs forward with seemingly no desired destination. The most memorable lyrics of the album roll in around the one-minute mark, coming in the form of an furiously modern missive: “You’re jerking off to al Jazeera and making your bed, and I could be at Crossfit like you, but I’d rather be dead” that does a clean job of articulating exactly what SPORTS is going after on Sunchokes. This is followed by “Where Are You”, perhaps the simplest song on the album, and yet the track that shows their versatility more so than any other. Predominately instrumental driven, with only two sets of lyrics repeated twice over, the guitars are almost relentlessly upbeat and dynamic enough to provide a sonic chorus for the track.
The final three songs are equally deserving of praise, especially the excellent titular closing title track. SPORTS manages 21 phenomenal minutes of rock that are necessarily prescient. Imagining Sunchokes with less topical sentiments is a sad exercise, as they standout distinctly because their songs sound more like daily ablutions than anything else.
“I thought that loving you would be enough. I couldn’t sleep so I grew up, now I’m in love with everyone.”
Stream Sunchokes below: