It’s a bit of a shortcut to declare Audacity’s fourth album a maturing affair. Sure, the Fullerton, California punks would seem to have settled into a more comprehensive artistic pocket, but only slightly, and that’s primarily because Hyper Vessels just sounds so fucking locked-in. There’s also the matter of this album’s smorgasbord of paces, its spectrum of vibes, its explosion of heavy modal leads and the fact that, though adolescent snottiness has not abandoned their repertoire entirely, Audacity is a band steadily carving out its own little raucous alcove in a hugely saturated SoCal punk community.
Theirs is the kind of exploratory punk that makes the good bands stick around and the formulaic fade soon after they start. Teeming with the enviable cornerstones of garage-rock and a buzzsaw assault of pop hooks, this is no psych-punk meditation. It’s evident immediately in album opener “Counting the Days,” an anthemic rocker redolent of drunken basement party shenanigans in the guise of a love song. About halfway through the song, a deconstructing guitar maelstrom spirals into a suddenly Thin Lizzy’d dual guitar-lead freakout, cementing a crucial sonic understanding of rock’s past and its importance in the now.
Guitarist/vocalist Kevin Gibson sings like he absolutely has to have five other people singing with him, engendering a communal spirit on the punky “Not Like You.” Gibson’s affected yelps propel other standout fuzzers like “Riot Train,” a song performed at such volume that you can practically see the peak lights running solid red—cymbals hiss in turn to crunchy bass lines played so hard the meaning of the song gets lost in a hairwhip haze.
“Umbrellas” welcomes new dynamics in a bizarro “No More Mr. Nice Guy” verse masquerading as a proto-punk send-up, Gibson singing, “Can you drive me outta my brain?/I’ve got two rusty wheels and a broken chain.” Later, a scathing criticism of the ubiquitous nature of baseball as unhealthy distraction from the world’s ills (an interesting contrast to a seemingly PRO-baseball Suicide Squeeze Records staff) is heard on “Baseball,” Gibson screeching, “People dying in the street, everyone is focusing on baseball/World’s on fire and you’re waiting for the umpire.”
Snarky armchair politics like that aside, Hyper Vessels is a measured triumph. Songs as melodically sound as “Fire” show how far the band has come, not to mention its susceptibility to smart influence from predecessors and tour buds like Ty Segall, who recorded the album. With the Los Angeles underground again experiencing a renaissance of garage-punk bands, Audacity’s agenda-less thrust is indicative of a band separating itself from the fray.