From the ashes of Smiths-channeling San Francisco-based quintet Magic Bullets comes Terry Malts. Made up of 3/5ths of the former, the trio continue creating music heavily indebted to ’80s UK-pop, though of a different vein this time around. Where Magic Bullets channeled the somber, witty wistfulness of their inner Moz (or Felt-era Lawrence Hayward), Terry Malts decide to drench their pop conventions in waves of Psychocandy distortion at a Buzzcock tempo.
Originally starting out as a side project due to being “bored and drunk,” the trio released a cassette and a pair of three-song EPs via Slumberland before dissolving Magic Bullets and making Terry Malts a full-time gig. Many of the songs from these releases make it onto the trio’s debut, Killing Time, which continues the power-saw bubblegum buzz they’ve dropped thus far. As was the case with Magic Bullets, Terry Malts have no problem wearing the group’s influences on their sleeves. The fuzzy pop of “Tumble Down” and “No Good for You” come off as an upbeat nods to early Jesus and the Mary Chain while the fun “I Do” and “What Was It” are direct distorted descendants of the Damned and the Undertones. Elsewhere the trio branches out with nods to Black Tambourine or the Wipers on the pleasantly disaffected “I’m Neurotic” or “No Sir, I’m Not A Christian.”
If you feel like you may have heard this before, you have. Killing Time is a record that collides at the familiar intersection of no-frills noisy pop and punk with little variance. As easy as it is to point to the bands that Terry Malts has built a sound upon, the trio make quick work within the confines of it, often times to excellent results. Standouts like the smart three-chord overdrive of “Nauseous” or “Mall Dreams,” which steamrolls through a blanket of noise with fast-chugging bass and pounding drums, showcase Terry Malts at their best and most aggressive.
While the music remains noisy and chipper, Killing Time feels surprisingly more youthfully earnest than teenage angst. Underneath the bustle and fury lies simple structures and lyrics full of catchy rhymes and an uncomplicated schoolyard somber (see album closer: “No Big Deal”). Terry Malts make sure to not take themselves too seriously but don’t let that approach sacrifice their craft. This allows Killing Time to seem like it was cut with relative ease but on consecutive listens reveals that these three execute this style with expert care.
What ultimately works against them is the busy musical landscape full of similar groups. This makes it difficult for Killing Time to offer anything that particularly standouts amongst the crowd. What results instead is a solid offering full of familiar noisy-pop that with a little branching out might help the trio do something special next time around. For now, they’ve got a nice little start.