Since at least the mid-nineties, when NOFX-loving hood rats sent punk into the malls of America, “pop punk” has been something of a pejorative term. Big, bright bubble-gum hooks, however, have been a key component of the punk blueprint as far back as the Ramones and the Buzzcocks. Here, to rescue the term from its exile on the Warped Tour, comes King Louie Bankston and his Missing Monuments.
A former associate of late-great power pop toughs the Exploding Hearts and a member of one-off power-scuzz trio Bad Times (with Jay Reatard and Goner Records’ Eric “Oblivian” Friedl), among many other outfits, the prolific Bankston also made waves in the underground as a purveyor of sloppy, spirited blues-punk in the form of the King Louie One Man Band. Here, he trades in his more slash and burn tendencies for sugar-sweet, starry-eyed melodies and jangling guitars.
On their debut, Painted White, the Missing Monuments indulge an era-specific definition of the term “pop,” steeping themselves in the vintage, yellow pills–driven melodies of the 1970s, from Milk and Cookies and the Pez Band to the Records and Paul Collins’ Beat. Louie’s ear for an indelible hook and his expert craftsmanship as a songwriter are on full display on tracks such as “Black Rainbow,” “Girl of the Night,” and the lyrically clever “She’s Like XTC.” And while Painted White is certainly “poppy,” the album isn’t without dabs of grit and grease, too. Bankston’s vocals in particular—all rough, desperate, and bent out of shape—ensure the album never becomes saccharine. King Louie is on his own musical trip, as always; but it’s one that, given its instant hummability, should be enjoyed by any and all . . . so hopefully the mall rats aren’t too far gone.