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Review -Sketch Method - Is It a Bird? Who Cares?

Sketch Method have been playing shows for a while, at least. They’ve got a demo dating back to 2015, though I have no recollection of seeing them play prior to 2016, when my band (Needledick) ended up on the same bill as them. In 2017 they dropped an EP, Razy Lacism, and played a show at Transit Bar in Canberra where half the audience got kicked out.

Now, slightly over a year after releasing their debut EP, Sketch Method have dropped their debut full length, Is it a Bird? Who Cares? The second question here might be turned against the album itself. ‘Another punk album, Who Cares?’ There are two related answers to this question. The first is that this album is a marked improvement on Razy Lacism, with better production, better sound and better songs. Not only have Sketch Method developed their song writing abilities (the songs are more complex) the band pulls off all the extra accoutrements (fills and weird riffs, mostly) that earlier songs were missing. The mix is still too low end heavy, and Sketch Method could do with a more melodic approach to song writing. There are moments when they display this exact ability, but the high end remains underrepresented on this album.

If you don’t know Sketch Method, you might want to know what this album sounds like (other than ‘better than the last one in every direction’). The best way to describe this is to say that at some point in the last two decades pop-punk got dark, aggressive and riffy. You might think this means it simply became punk music again, but this would be incorrect. Bands like Propagandhi and Pears retain a pop-punky approach to melody, hooks and song writing while upping the ante on the aggression. Somewhere in this strange brew floats Sketch Method’s sound (bands like Strung Out are also important in this history).

So back to the original question, ‘Who Cares?’. People who like the aforementioned style of music care, and presumably they will care cause Is it a Bird? Who Cares? Is a superb example of this kind of punk music.

There’s also a more important answer. The indifference in the title of the album is, whether the band intended it or not, ironic. At first, we might place this second half of the title, the Who Cares? in the tradition of indifference as rebellion that characterises youth (‘whatever’) and punks alike. Nothing means anything, we’re all going to die, who cares, punk is just like whatever you want it to be.

Despite the album coming from the fires of ennui and desperation that breed such indifference - as evidenced both in sound and lyrical content (just one example ‘back and forth, back and forth and nothing happens’) – the album is precisely a monument to giving a shit, to caring. Those songs that are more directed at individuals than systems, Soapbox and C is for Remorse, could only be generated precisely from giving a shit, caring about what it means to not be a fuckwit and knowing that this is something that matters and is worth taking a stand on. Likewise, it is hard to square the indifference presupposed by the title with the anti-hipster tirade Self Appointed Hipster Wannabe. What’s wrong with hipsters exactly? In the common abuse of the term it is precisely that hipsters stand for nothing, an empty vehicle for whatever is deemed fashionable by forces just beyond their control. It is this inauthenticity that is detestable. Here, in roughly the middle of the album, things come together. Sketch Method offer the opposite of this; they simply are. Who Cares? It doesn’t matter who cares is the answer.

Sketch Method might not know exactly who they are and what they want to be. Perhaps what they are will change. Both as individuals and a band they are young. They are, however, committed to what they are at any given point. Free both in image and sound of dominant distortions and trends amongst modern alternative music, one should care about their album precisely because it is honest in an age of fraudulence.

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