Robin has gained popularity in their natural habitat among the punks of Japan, and in their first album marketed and sold overseas, Thunder and Speedumb, the psychobilly boys have produced something thrashing and loud and pretty much awesome. On the surface, it’s all much of the same old thing: galloping guitar work and fast drums and badass-sounding song titles. But if you spend any amount of time listening to this album, you’ll soon hear wonderful things: swinging tempos, wicked bass runs, and super sexy drum patterns.
Thunder is about one-half punk and psychobilly norms, and another half pleasant surprises, both of which are done well and work cohesively together. “Hellvation” as a title sounds way too badass for its own good, but despite my misgivings, the song starts off with a deliciously slamming bass pattern and then the rest of the band kicks in, with the occasional break to play up the bass again. In fact, most of the album seems to feature more-than-interesting bass work. The album opener, “080609,” is a low, groovy (yeah, really — groovy) instrumental that focuses on more bluesy drumming, combining bass and lower guitar into something that sounds like a hot summer’s night.
Another tick in the awesome column is “Space Ride,” which reminds me of the goofier side of punk, a la The Dead Milkmen. It’s a nice break, and I daresay if the punks knew how to smile, this would be the song to bring it around. Lighter drum and guitars bring the itchy vocals into focus, and emphasize the simple lyrics.
But not all of Thunder is random and newfangled. If you’re into intricate guitar patterns and feedback (come on, you know you are), Robin’s got some of that too. All eleven tracks are average-to-short in length and packed with speeding tempos — just enough to either get your ass moving or give you a heart attack. But at least it will be a happy death, right?