If I told you that a band wrote a USA chant into one of their songs in 2019, which band would you guess? Kid Rock? Ted Nugent? Or maybe Lynyrd Skynyrd? But you probably wouldn’t guess a socially-conscious, self-aware, lyrically adroit young band from Los Angeles. That band is Sego, and their second album Sego Sucks has countless amusing lyrics that will whiz past if you’re solely engaged in their fun-loving, melodic alternative rock choruses.
The very first line of the album quickly spills out, but it’s a stroke of genius: “Killed the time to pass the time / Went and skipped the funeral.” With rib-tickling, surreal lines like these, paired with roaring riffs, one might call this a thinking man’s moshpit album, but while most of these albums fall into punk, metal, hardcore or psych camps, this is a rare rock addition. Frontman Spencer Petersen mystifyingly injects drama into his vocals despite an often nonchalant vocal style, and when he’s not deadpanning, he melds gritty punk-pop with sentimental, emo adjacent rock with winsome results.
The ricocheting bass line of “Neon Me Out” is the first taste of Sego Sucks, and it foreshadows the album’s ping-ponging internal monologue. Slather some soaring vocal harmonies on top and listeners are met with one of the best rock choruses of the year so far. Its lyrics feel like they were conjured in an anxious yet lucid state as they illustrate a gradual drift into vices and cynicism. The words fumble out swiftly, but the result is sobering social commentary (“Your pictures are a crutch / Your opinions are a crutch”) rather than the nonsensical stream of consciousness one might expect from such a state of frantic tension.
On “Give Me,” Sego chuckle with dry amusement at the ludicrous notion that millennials fail to reach traditional adult milestones simply because they’re childish brats, (“Well, I think it’s time we all start acting our age / Well, I think it’s time I actually start getting paid”). Later, they break into a slightly altered American Pledge of Allegiance (“I pledge allegiance / To the new nation / The black white and grey / Uh…Truth and cliche”), and children lend “Make that money” backing vocals followed by a splitting guitar solo that hopefully brings home some bacon.
Sego Sucks tackles self-loathing, fake personas, escape, substance abuse, economic anxieties and other various personal hang-ups, and it’s all swathed in tuneful blankets of frisky rock riffs and warm-hearted melodies. “Heart Attack” wonders whether giving up would be so bad. Despite lyrics that lean on the morbid side (the chorus goes “Heart attack / Body bag”), the song’s sportive guitar lines sound more like a wedding reception ruckus than a glum funeral. “Whatever Forever” is an accepted invitation to eternally wallow away, “Buy Time” admits that happiness could be feasible if they only knew how to attain it and “Sucker / Saint,” blurs the line between the intrinsic “good” and “bad” as they enter a deeper metaphysical realm (“I’m in it, but not of it”).
Sego are bursting at the seams, but they don’t seem to advocate for sulking in the mess. It’s about acknowledging the obstacles ahead and allowing yourself room to screw up. It’s worth asking whether the closing track “Coming Home” is a surrender to the stormy seas or the first glimpse of the shore, but it might be neither. Most likely, it’s a recognition you don’t have to abandon ship or arrive at the X marks the spot—you just have to steady the course.