I can only start this review by saying I don’t think I’ve ever listened to anything more aptly titled than Remo Drive’s debut album Greatest Hits. The Minnesota 3 piece have already released 4 singles from the record, along with 2 accompanying music videos, but only when it is all pieced together can you really see how fantastic a debut Greatest Hits is. Track after track, this album delivers a solid, punchy hybrid of indie rock, punk and emo, filled to the brim with memorable riffs, busy drum grooves and catchy lyrical hooks that are bound to embed themselves in your brain and refuse to leave, though I’m not sure you’d want them to.
Remo Drive seem to have reinvented themselves. Admittedly, I had never heard of them in their previous iteration and have only listened to the song “Heartstrings” from their previous work, although that song was, and still is, fantastic. Despite having a lot of splits and EPs previously released, the band is coming back with a new sound, new image and an incredibly professional approach. So committed are they to this new sound, that they are actively taking down much of their old music from streaming sites. Now I cannot say that whether this is a good thing or not, having never listened to them before Greatest Hits, but all I can say is that you’d be forgiven for thinking the album really was the greatest hits of a band that had been around for years.
With each song, lead vocalist Erik Paulson seems to take a lyrical theme and just run with it, whether the theme is being a self-diagnosing hypochondriac or likening his relationship to one between a dog and their master. These very specific themes are worked into beautifully crafted extended metaphors, such as on the track “Hunting For Sport” where Erik sings first ‘Got me acting as the dog I have become,’ before coming to terms with the fact that he doesn’t want to be just a possession as he launches into my favourite hook on the album, exclaiming ‘Now I’m unsure if I want my master’s love.’ The lyrics follow these specific motifs in every individual song but the overarching theme seems to be with the struggles of modern relationships, whether its feeling like a possession in “Hunting For Sport” or being used as security in the single “Crash Test Rating”.
Erik shouts his way through the trails of adolescent love with his own style of almost optimistic self-deprecation if there can be such a thing, with every song sounding positive despite its content. Never is this more apparent than in the gang vocals in “I’m My Own Doctor” where, accompanied by claps, Erik and co. sing ‘I’ve been self-diagnosing all of my problems, carrying all my stress in the jaw.’ Erik knows he’s making up his own problems, causing them himself, yet they shout this like some sort of positive rallying cry. These contradictions lead to songs that just feel like they should be sung with a little smirk. Erik knows his own faults, but is having almost too much fun to care.
Erik combines his magnificent lyricism with a guitar playing ability that would make this band seem at times as though they have an extra guitarist. Remo Drive blend the fuzzy chords of indie punk with just a little taste of Midwestern emo in the occasional riff, enough to let you know that these guys aren’t just another power chord playing pop punk band, and instead something more akin to slightly more technical emo outift such as Mom Jeans. Sam Mathys on drums, re-introduced to the band for their reinvention, fills every space on this album with grooves that even I, with very little knowledge of percussion, find myself tapping along with at my desk, whilst bassist Stephen Paulson accompanies this with the understated, subtle basslines that can often go under the radar with such excellent lyrics, vocals drums and guitar. However, Remo Drive’s instrumentals are never better than in those few times where the vocals and guitar fade, giving the bass and drums a few seconds to shine more or less by themselves, most noticeably and effectively on the track “Hunting For Sport”, and shine they do.
This has honestly been one of the hardest things I have ever written, because of just how good this album is. I could happily write a track by track review, looking at every single song in complete depth. With their debut LP, Remo Drive have captured everything great about basement indie punk, added their own twist and thrown in a tiny dash of Tiny Moving Parts for good measure, and the result is one hell of a cocktail.
Listen to the album right here:
Words by Josef Smith