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Drinking Boys and Girls Choir: Marriage Licence - Album Review

You don’t get labels with much stronger rosters than Damnably, right? From the ferocious punk hurricane of Otoboke Beaver to the dreamlike shoegaze-tinged surf-rock of Say Sue Me, every band on the roster that I’ve heard has been incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to see their artists at two separate shows – Cincinnati’s Leggy opening for The Spook School’s farewell tour, and the label showcase that was 2019’s Golden Week Tour.

The Golden Week Tour featured the aforementioned Otoboke Beaver and Say Sue Me, giving incendiary performances that both bands are renowned for. However I was left blown away by opening band Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, who were unfamiliar to me at the time. Their blend of folk-punk and hardcore, coupled with their intense stage presence made me an immediate fan. Songs like National Police Shit were vital and urgent with a strong message. Lead singer and bassist Meena Bae has previously underlined the importance of politics in the band’s music: “We can’t remove that. We can’t just have songs about love or something—actually, love is also political. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Korea.” The band reference this in the title of their new album, Marriage Licence, which happens to be one of the best punk albums of the year so far.

It’s apparent from the opening drum fill of Limitless Night that the band have raised the stakes compared to their debut record. The record is at once more ambitious and more tightly coiled than before, packing all their best ideas into a tight 11-track 23-minute opus. Where debut album Keep Drinking presented the band’s ideas, this delivers on that promise, enhancing their strengths and presenting new ones.

The record both refines and diversifies their sound. The band push themselves into more melodic pockets than ever before, with early album highlight There Is No Spring having a caramel-sweet melody, and single Time sounding every bit as great as a Jimmy Eat World single circa Clarity. The ramshackle punk edge of their debut isn’t lost however, and sounds more ferocious than ever on singalong ragers like Hit The Corner or the unbridled squall of I Am Not A Machine.

Choosing highlights from an album as uniformly strong as this is almost impossible, however it’s in the closing duo of Grab The Chance and Wish in which the album shines brightest. The former track is a short, sharp standout, with an incendiary riff and direct lyrics acting as a call to action. “It’s time to face up to anything,” they shout, presenting a mission statement for the album as a whole. The structure is imploded on the finale of Wish, which is at once their longest song and also the most melodically rich, with sugary vocal melodies duelling against the bright guitar riffs. It’s an uplifting conclusion on an album that encourages listeners to fight for a brighter future. Drinking Boys and Girls Choir set out their mission statement, and invite you to fight alongside them. Grab the chance, and listen.

Highlight tracks: Wish, There Is No Spring, Grab The Chance, Hit The Corner

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