Young Daniel Pujol has managed to strike a tricky balance on his new full length, United States of Being. He’s a songwriter who willfully touts his nerd persona, with many of his song themes relying on general geekery like comic-book heroes, European history, vampires, or rejection of social concepts of maturity. These are all topics that risk isolating at least half of a potential audience, which might be the case if the band PUJOL, in totality, wasn’t so damn fun. Despite his thin and relatively diminutive frame, frontman Pujol manages to belt out his cunningly overwritten lyrics through an unexpectedly gnarly set of pipes. It’s an entrancing delivery—like he’s screaming on behalf of every teenager on the planet.
The music itself lies on the punk side of the power-pop ditch, with buzzy guitar drives, a blasting rhythm section, and, of course, those snarling, pulpy-sounding vocals. There’s a true songwriter’s ear buried beneath all the fist-pumping, and it relies on a well-honed melodic sensibility that borrows on classic power-pop tropes but introduces impressive key and tempo shifts, like on the most barefaced punk anthem, “Niceness,” which sounds at first like your average dive-bar singalong until you realize how deceptively sustained those myriad of key changes are. “Mission From God” belies a Ramones influence with its chantable refrains and heart-pounding breakdown. These are songs that feel comfortable but not too lived-in, largely due to the intelligence behind their execution. Even “Providence,” which extensively namechecks momentous occasions in European history like the Magna Carta and the revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre, doesn’t feel like a Monty Python–style satirical study guide. Any pigeonholing for history buffs vanishes with its helplessly rock & roll chorus, “God is pumping me all full of lead.”
Best of all, this PUJOL release helps kick off a titillating era of Southern rock—sort of reclaiming the twangy garage-punk that New Englanders like Deer Tick have co-opted for long enough. There’s no direct country influence in PUJOL, but being a Nashville-based kid who speaks frequently of his days growing up doing shit else but hanging out in parking lots of rural Tennessee, it’s impossible not to believe that his music is representative of a tried-and-true sound come down South to be reborn.