Upstart Austin punk band Fight Plan’s new EP, Pacemaker, should function as an introduction to the group for most potential fans in the Austin area and beyond. Austin Nightlife enjoys the quartet’s combination of hard rock’s musicianship, punk’s feverish energy and throat-shredding vocals (courtesy of singer Andrew Clary) that can scream enough for death metal. The EP’s four songs zoom past in 10 1/2 minutes, so it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it listening experience.
The band’s thematic approach is obvious from their song titles. Opener “Fuck That” deftly flies in all the major aspects of Fight Plan’s sound – Clary’s vulture vocals, Rob Wildey’s searing guitar work and drummer April Schupmann and bassist Aaron Jauken creating a rhythm section that hits like cannons. The song is also surprisingly catchy, even with all the screams and distortion. Fight Plan play traditional punk music, but their approach to melody has more sophistication than this EP’s cartoonish front cover would suggest.
Second song “Get Drunk & Break Shit” doesn’t live up to its predecessor, unfortunately. The opening guitar riff is interesting, but something about the arrangement leaves Clary’s voice stranded in the mix. If it wasn’t for Schupmann’s MVP drumming and an admittedly wicked guitar solo the song wouldn’t hold up under its own weight.
A memorable Samuel L. Jackson sound clip begins “Hipster Kill,” a song that recalls the best aspects of The Offspring. It’s back to the level of quality set by the EP’s opener. Clary takes the opportunity to sing as opposed to scream, and the results are another very winning chorus refrain. In the grand tradition of punk, the song clearly sets its composers on one particular side of the current musical debate. Don’t expect a Pavement cover out of Fight Plan anytime soon.
“The Wrecking Crew,” Pacemaker‘s final song, is the most hammering and intense track here. The use of backup vocals behind the shrieking lead is, again, a touch of creativity beyond what other bands in this genre typically pull off. It is probably not the best song on the album, but for pure adrenaline and venom it can’t be beat. If Fight Plan is closing shows with this, they’re doing it right. The sustained long note at the end brings the song and EP to an effective close.
On the technical merits, Pacemaker is fantastically produced (by the band) and performed. It’s a shame that the EP is so short, because going from start to finish in less than 11 minutes can’t help but slight the record somewhat. Austin Nightlife wants to hear more of Fight Plan, which one assumes was the whole point.
Final Grade: **** (out of five)