I’ve never had an ear for the harsher, DIY-fueled end of the punk spectrum. But neither have I found the more blatantly commercial “punk-pop” genre very satisfying. My sweet spot is for the sort of punk or punk-like music made by folks who may be angry, or alienated, or otherwise fed up but still manage to have their musical wits about them. My opinion is that if you’re too angry to be bothered to learn exactly how to write and perform music, maybe you should just leave the music out of it entirely? One man’s perhaps unreasonable idea.
Anyway, with stuff like this, whether in its original, Buzzcocks-y incarnation or when trotted out in the new(ish) century by a crew like Marvelous Darlings, I’m all in. It’s loud and muscular but it’s an honest-to-goodness song, with a primitive, ear-catching riff, nostalgic melodies, and any number of musical moments one might almost call graceful except for the general head-bangy ambiance. There is, for instance, that place in the relentless, mostly two-note melody when singer Ben Cook takes a fifth-interval downward dive (0:36), and it’s just exactly right. And you kind of wait for it to come back and it doesn’t, and it doesn’t, until finally very close to the end, it does (2:08). This more than makes up for Cook’s decision to add an over-the-top British affectation to the word “party,” which is probably in any case a private joke of some kind.
An additional moment of odd grace: how the interwoven repetition of the basic theme (“I don’t want to go”) we hear at 1:04 resolves into a syncopated, falsetto release at 1:11. The song hammers us unflaggingly with a classic rock’n’roll backbeat and yet offers us a few moments like this one that dance away from it. Another is the brief but dandy guitar solo (1:44-1:54).
Marvelous Darlings is a Toronto band featuring Cook and Matt Delong, who were co-founders of the Canadian hardcore band No Warning; Cook, who also performs under the name Young Governor, is best known these days as a member of the Toronto band Fucked Up, which somewhat unexpectedly won Canada’s Polaris Prize in 2009 for best Canadian album. “I Don’t Wanna Go To The Party” is the lead track on Single Life, an album comprised of previously released 7-inch vinyl singles, put out this week by the Canadian label Deranged Records. MP3 via Deranged. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.