There's a simple question to ask yourself when considering whether to pick up Had a Food Baby!, the new album 1332 Records recently released from local pop-punks Skittish Itz: "Do you like Millencolin?"
If so, go for it. Skittish Itz ape the Swedish greats with remarkable success. Everything from the style of the major key progressions and the skate culture-influenced songs, to the ultra-tight arrangements and the throaty tone of frontman Russ Worstell's voice bearing a pitch-perfect imitation of Nikola Sarcevic.
Even the way the band makes occasional, short forays into awkward ska on tracks like "What's the Matter" and "Standard Sitcom Theme Song," speaks to Millencolin.
But bearing that close a resemblance to a great band isn't a bad thing. Like Millencolin, Skittish Itz move beyond the three-chords-and-a-chorus version of pop punk pioneered by the Ramones. There are well-composed riffs, breakdowns and arrangements that stay fluid instead of running on a three-minute loop.
One of the best songs on the record is "Every of the Time," which juxtaposes an unrelenting blitz of noise with lyrics about how much Worstell loves everything, puppies and apple pie included.
The dueling guitar flairs in "No Promised Land" are also a nice touch. As are the bright blasts of overdrive that highlight the downbeats in the album's mid-tempo closer, "Welcome to Earth." The song mixes in a circus breakdown and some "bop shoo-wops" on the backing vocals that fade into a mess of blues notes--it's a delightfully odd way to end a rock record.
Though the dry, overdriven guitar tone on the album becomes a bit wearying over the course of the record, it works like gangbusters in small doses or when the band switches up its arrangements. The record won't go down as an instant classic, but Had a Food Baby! is easily one of the better punk albums to come out of Boise in the last year. Especially if you like Millencolin.