In the past few years, garage bands have taken on a more psychedelic pop sensibility, for example with San Francisco’s Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, and The Fresh & Onlys. While their upbeat stinging guitar slides and songs of endless love, rainbows, and Coca-Cola have been refreshing doses of scuzzy positivity, San Diego’s Spider Fever are vehemently proclaiming on their first full-length that the dirty contusion-causing sounds of punk and alternative is loudly back.
Released through Washington DC-based Windian Records, the self-titled debut LP stridently asserts itself within the first 30 seconds of track one, “Pub Rock’n”. Beginning with a claustrophobic invasion of sinister locust-like feedback, the song veers course suddenly with Cody Young’s steady 1-2-3-drum beat and cocky roll of Billy Baggin’s guitar. The long instrumental, over one minute long, allows for proper penetration before the supplementation of vocals is brought in.
The lyrics, almost inaudible, appropriately achieve the beer-in-your-hair cathartic release of a punk-rock benchmark, but serve as a small let-down after the tremendous build and climax of the song’s first sixty seconds. The punch provided through the drum and guitar alone leaves one wondering, “What if the leading track of this classically punk laced record was a straight instrumental opener? Would it perhaps provide a larger reworking of the traditional sound being produced?” Regardless, “Pub Rock’n” successfully demonstrates that this will not be a record concerned with good vibrations.
Although the album rapidly moves through its thirty-four minute playtime, the majority of tracks feel fully formed, even those falling under the three-minute mark, due to the seamless instrumental shifts. These changes allow tracks to achieve a barrage of moods and subtle genre interplay that engages the listener. Track two, “Done Wrong”, begins with a sense of early 90s alternative pop-punk that immediately 360s into a fast hard dirty anthem of repenting solitude. The smooth transformations offer fleshed-out development, along with nuanced rises and falls, giving one plenty to contemplate in at what first appears to be a “simple” two-minute track. The clear attention to what makes a song stimulating for the listener is why Spider Fever's take on raw punk is a worthwhile endeavor and keeps the record fresh throughout its nine tracks.
Spider Fever's other standout Don’t Stray gratifyingly follows this formula through the mixture of dark feedback, upbeat drums and guitar melody. Mario Rublacaba’s voice shines through, revealing a larger range not heard on previous tracks. At times he calls to mind Nevermind–era Kurt Cobain, demonstrating that Spider Fever has perfected the best of many decades and managed to combine them all into a less than forty-minute long record. What you originally believe to be a straightforward '70s punk redux at times bends into a melding of late '80s/early '90s heavy jams with a 21st century awareness.
The self-titled comes full circle with the hard, building thrash of the more than seven-minute long closing track “Simply Nervous”. The charged song provides a tongue-in-cheek sexually fueled anthem that resembles The Violent Femmes if they were a lot more violent. The chorus of “Lift up your dress and let’s make a mess” mingled with fast drumming and straight rock guitar solos serves as a bit of a tease, as it leaves us sweaty and wanting more just as a squealing scratch of feedback closes the record out.