30th August 2019 will always be remembered as the day Tool’s long awaited album Fear Inoculum was released, and arguably with good reason. After a 13 year wait, the band that still defy genre classification have released 86 minutes of music that warrants repeat listens, if not years of study.
But it would be wrong to say it was the only great musical release of the day, far from it. Nowhere is this more evident than with Brighton’s indie punk noise merchants Gender Roles. After a couple of mighty impressive EP releases in recent years, the trio have finally released their debut album – Prang (Big Scary Monsters), and if you’re so inclined to read, I’ll explain to you why this is one of the best albums of 2019.
Firstly and most importantly, Prang comprises of 10 legitimately brilliant songs. Now this may sound like a prerequisite for an album of the year contender, but all too often the quality of songs is negated in place of subtext and lofty ambitions beyond the tracks themselves; even my lord and spirit animal Jamie Lenman was guilty of this on his covers album Shuffle. Gender Roles, on the other hand, have very much taken the ethos of ‘all killer, no filler’, blending elements of Brit-pop, grunge and punk to forge something unique but still welcomingly familiar. This is mirrored in lyrical themes, which are equally dripping with nostalgia; ‘Hey With Two Whys’ brought more memories from 2010 back than I care to relive!
Prang is also packed full of massive choruses that quickly become earworms. I’ve got more than a couple of strange looks at work and on the train quietly muttering “you look like death,” under my breath. And as much as the band excel at these summer-tinged anthems, they’re just as adept in quieter moments, evident in the sinister minor chords in ‘Your War’.
If I were to go out on one of the most controversial limbs of my burgeoning amateur journalistic career, I’d say Prang is more vital than Fear Inoculum in 2019.
Hear me out…
Much like the way punk caused more emotional waves zeitgeist than prog in the 70s/80s, there’s something evocative and immediate with this album that might just be lacking in Tool’s release. You don’t need to study it or have a comprehensive knowledge of polyrhythms, it just makes you feel. In fact, the stripped back production only augments this authenticity. Will Tool and Gender Roles ever be compared again? Almost certainly not, but they’re the only two albums I’ve listened to today, sue me.
Inexorably, I now have to change my name, face and nationality in fear of reprisal, but it will have all been worth it if you check out Prang. 2019 might be one of the most difficult years ever for many, but there’s no disputing we’re in a golden age for alternative music, and Gender Roles are one of the new champions of this movement.