Released via Big Scary Monsters in the UK and Dine Alone Records in Canada and the United States, Pkew Pkew Pkew’s new album ‘Optimal Lifestyles’ finds frontman Mike Warne examining whether living a ‘lively’ punk-rock life and enjoying so many killer parties has had a positive effect on him and his bandmates’ lives – and how living in a city like Toronto with its rising rents, all-encompassing focus on money and constant gentrification can also make you feel lost.
Craig Finn of The Hold Steady visited Toronto to workshop songs for this record with the band and his influence shines throughout as Mike tells stories of his life with honesty, wit and candour. The opening ‘Still Hanging Out After All These Years’ is a punky celebration of the never-ending cycle of sinking beers, drowning sorrows and having breakfast tomorrow (‘We’re the same dumb kids, and that only makes us dumber’). The Strokes meet The Replacements on the exuberant and enthusiastic ‘Don’t Matter at All’. It’s a passionate account of self-reflection, but not with the resolution you may expect: ‘Every now and then I get reminded that I don’t really matter at all’; ‘I want you to know that I know that I won’t change’.
‘Point Break’ starts as a garage rock song looking back over the past (‘You took me in and I lied to you, I’m really hoping one day I come clean. Why can’t I ever say what I really mean?’) before being lifted by a stunning saxophone solo 43 seconds in – thus cementing its place as one of THE songs of 2019. ‘Drinking Days’ has a punk sound akin to Alkaline Trio with frenetic guitar hooks and self-depreciating lyrics: ‘If I changed my ways, I wouldn’t have to stay’, while ‘The Polynesian’ is a power-pop sound that offers nods to the soft rock gods of yesteryear – imagine Culture Abuse soundtracking a John Hughes film as Mike sings about a place you would never want to visit: ‘I heard it gets rough here in the off-season. It’s the kind of place we might not get out alive. It’s just somewhere to stop on a real long drive. I bet the locals only come out after it gets dark. And the tourists: the kind of people who love waterparks’. This celebratory account of avoiding social situations full of ‘crazy kids’ continues on ‘The Pit’: ‘I don’t really know what they do at the Pit but I heard a few allegations’.
The anthemic ‘Skate 2’ examines the pratfalls of being in a band (‘That Port-O-Potty didn’t have no papers in it. You took my notebook and you promised not to use any songs. And then you wiped your ass with all of the best ones’) and the dangers of skateboarding: ‘Shred until you’re dead or until you break your wrist again’ before then. ‘Pass Out’ is a riff-driven song that will strike a chord with anyone who’s been stuck in a dead-end job where the whole day seems to revolve around home-time and the excitement of getting on the beers.
‘I Wanna See a Wolf’ is packed with Andrew W.K.-style party riffs as Mike passionately shouts about wanting to see a wolf while touring (‘I don’t want to settle for a coyote. I know they’re easier to see. Well, fuck that’) before then revealing it’s a clever metaphor: being couped up in a van is just like being an animal in captitivity: ‘Like a caged beast. In this van, longing to run free and skip soundcheck. I wanna be a wolf’. ‘Adult Party’ is a rousing rally against the fakeness of people including ‘young professionals’ whose parents still pay their phonebills and the bullshit of Facebook invites. It opens with the memorable line of ‘Nobody shakes hands anymore, it’s all hugging’ as Mike laments the way some people now use hugs ‘like a handshake disguised as care’ before starting up a group chant that so many will want to join in with: ‘And then I said, “Rich kids, go fuck yourselves”. If there’s some in the audience, go somewhere else. Rich kids… Go fuck yourselves’. He then re-examines his behaviour and thoughts as he admits ‘I’m better off just staying in. I’ll be nice and not say what I think’.
The closing ‘Thirsty and Humble’ is the longest song on the album. It’s 3 minutes and 47 seconds long. Pkew Pkew Pkew’s ‘Optimal Lifestyles’ is packed with feel-good punk anthems you’ll want to be singing along to at all the festivals this year.