Articles about The So So Glos read like buzzband thesauruses, each one containing some combination of the terms “lo-fi,” “punk rock,” “Market Hotel,” “Todd P,” “Brooklyn,” and “DIY.” Let’s see if we can fit them all: The So So Glos are a punk-influenced band that has established a lot of lo-fi cred by co-founding Brooklyn DIY venue Market Hotel with infamous show promoter Todd P. (Whew, did it!) The band comprises Brooklyn/Queens natives Alex and Ryan Levine (brothers), Zach Staggers (their stepbrother), and Matt Elkin (their “brother in spirit”).
Given the above, you might be excused for expecting a blast of noise when Low Back Chain Shift, their new five-song 12-minute EP purrs to life, a test of your ability to appreciate art. But The So So Glos are up to something entirely different. Unlike many of their Brooklyn brethren, who don’t seem to listen to anything but The Clean and The Beach Boys (you could do worse, sure), The So So Glos have crippling Anglophilia, aping a cross-section of several decades of British hitmakers, including The Clash, Supergrass, The Stranglers, even a bit of Billy Bragg (in style, if not in content). And, yes, singer Alex Levine is doing a British accent, basically for the entire run-time of the album. At barely 12 minutes, it isn’t really enough time to get annoyed by it.
Low Back Chain Shift is surprisingly diverse for an album that you can listen to in the time it takes to walk to the corner, buy a beer, and walk home. Opener “Fred Astaire” is relentlessly anthemic, with shimmering guitars, shouted choruses, and a a mood that shoots continuously into the ionosphere. “Live Like TV” has horsehoof percussion and a string section and is a close facsimile of vintage Brit-pop — it would nestle nicely between “The Universal” and “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” on any Cool Britannia compilation. “New Stance” is a somewhat tiresome detour intended to show off their softer side, while “Here Comes the Neighborhood” is playful and melodic. “Lindy Hop” is the album’s other standout, and at times sounds like Ponytail with Joe Strummer shouting over it, all complex and constantly shifting time signatures and snotty accents.
Of course, what it doesn’t really sound like is any other DIY band you’ve ever heard. It’s music that has broad appeal, with songs that stick (especially opener “Fred Astaire”). It is, in short, a pop record. The songs are playful, featuring clanking chains, high guitar notes that float somewhere between surf and pop-punk, and, yes, that faux-British accent. The band members seem to be showing off, proving they can write slow songs, fast ones, and even ballads. It’s more epic by half than an album that’s less than 15 minutes has any right to be.