Sacramento punks G. Green’s latest album Area Codes is about a band trapped between two worlds; a band that’s right on the cusp of maturity, both sonically and emotionally; a band that’s trying to hone its aesthetic without giving up its identity. Luckily, this is an undertaking in which G. Green is remarkably successful.
Perhaps trying to outmaneuver any potential sophomore slump, G. Green practically reinvent themselves this time around, the result of which is an album that’s a major step up from the sludgy, lo-fi punk debut, Crap Culture. Distortion pedals are largely eschewed in favor of clean channel guitars, howling punk vocals are replaced with quirky post-punk squeals, and manic fury is replaced with tempered self-awareness. The closest model for G. Green’s new sound is probably fellow garage/post-punk act Parquet Courts with their staccato rhythms, sung-spoken vocals, and guitars so bright it sounds like the tone knob’s been wretched clean off.
G. Green’s rhythm section is as chaotic and disorganized as ever, but they’re in agreement over how they’re chaotic and disorganized. Bassist Simi Sohota leans far back as he lumbers over each bass line, giving drummer Liz Liles a deep pocket in which to explore different rhythms, which often sound like they’re ricocheting off walls. This strong foundation mixed with Andrew Henderson and Mike Morales’s high-pitched guitar riffs, which alternate between melodic and screeching, make for a finished product that definitely fits into the lexicon of classic post-punk, and yet still brings enough new ideas to the table to remain fresh.
The tone of the album usually falls somewhere on the broad spectrum of vulnerable and sneering, sometimes switching between the two on a dime, like in the last two songs, “You Can’t be Trusted” and “Drugs”, which include lines like, “And your happiness it finds a way to push me against a wall,” and, “I just wanna fuck you, and I’m just gonna fuck all your best friends, oh baby,” respectively. At times, G. Green even swings between these moods in the same song. The song “Sex Pt. 2” meditates on the connection between sex and death, and could easily be an allusion to the Urinal’s “Sex” for this, its similarly morose and violent imagery, and, most obviously, the similar names.
Many songs on Area Codes utilize the post-punk tension-building technique of repeating slow, simple riffs ad nauseum, which often end up serving as the fist-clenching, head-shaking hook for the otherwise sparse tracks. And for the most part, G. Green has mastered this dynamic, but the few disappointing moments on Area Codes are when the band abandons these ideas prematurely, giving the impression that chorus and verse sections of certain songs were paired up arbitrarily.
For example, the title track “Area Codes” starts with Henderson reciting the area codes of G. Green’s current base of Sacramento and his half-time home town of Orem, Utah, 916 and 801, over the plodding of Sohota’s bass, which creates a cool 3/4 over 4/4 time signature effect. The rest of the band then joins in, adding just enough to push the idea further, with nimble little guitar riffs and an off-kilter drum rhythm that builds perfectly on the bass line. But then, the band shifts suddenly into a dramatically more dissonant chorus, breaking all the momentum they had built up.
Up until that point, “Area Codes” is probably the strongest song on the album, with a well crafted intro, verse, and thoughtful lyrics. And while it’s not enough to ruin the song, its less-than-graceful transitions work against the best thing G. Green has going for them, which is obviously disappointing.
Area Codes is ultimately an album that’s infectious, driving, and extremely easy to get lost in, thanks to its hypnotic riffs and pummeling bass lines. As an album about being stuck between two worlds, the easiest comparison to make would be that Area Codes is something like G. Green’s adolescence—a difficult-to-navigate period that’ll either destroy them or help them reach the next level. And if that’s the case, then Area Codes, even with its few awkward moments, is more than enough to make G. Green the coolest kid in school.