Punk rock escapism is overdue for a resurgence, since the world has been plunged into an inescapable nightmare. Enter Drakulas new album, Terminal Amusements, which dropped last month via Dine Alone records.
Written by vocalist Mike Weibe (Riverboat Gamblers, High Tension Wires) and guitarist Zach Blair (Rise Against), the group’s sophomore record is a tincture of power punk and ’80s new wave.
But, take a closer look at the lyrics and the aesthetics of the album, and you will find an exploration into the grimy underbelly of a neo-noir fantasy version of Times Square, a glimpse into the messy lives of messy characters in all their glory and vices. Not quite a linear story, but more of an immersion into a fantastical punk rock underworld.
“Everything is written around this video game arcade in a fictional 1970’s metropolis, the arcade is called Terminal Amusements,” Weibe explains. “It’s about the characters who are weaving their way in and out of the arcade in that area.”
The seeds of Terminal Amusements are sewn deep within Weibe’s own childhood memories.
“The concept of the band is a loose idea between The Warriors and Taxi Driver,” he says. “Basically, what I thought New York City was like when I was 8 years old, having never been there, having only lived in the suburbs of Texas. What I imagined it was like.”
Weibe elaborates on the use of many different eras to create an atemporal setting for his fictional world.
“My personal rule for lyrics is that nothing can be current,” he says. “If there’s a reference, it has to be from this made-up world. I got deep into this podcast called The Rialto Report; it’s about the golden age of the Times Square pornography scene and like art, and the factory movements in Times Square back then. And there was this documentary called ‘80 Blocks from Tiffany’s,’ it’s about gangs in New York in that time period. And I sort of just blended it all together and made up my own little world, and my own little slang terms, and my own characters that walk in and out of there.”
Produced and engineered by Stuart Sikes (White Stripes, Rocket from the Crypt), the album covers a wide amount of musical terrain, grabbing elements of Dickies-style pop punk with synth-heavy New Wave elements, giving it an atemporal feel to it.
“Something I learned from Ted Hutch on the last Gamblers record, he would talk about trying to capture something that sounds like [it’s from] a while back, but he said (in a British accent), ‘you don’t want it to be a museum piece.’”
Since most of us will be spending this time caught up with TV, movies, and video games in the next few months, who knows? It might not be long until we’re linked up our own virtual arcade, roaming around in and out of Terminal Amusements, making back alley deals with seedy outlaw characters, using weird virtual currency. Doesn’t sound that bad, actually…
“I do think there is a tension and a ‘what fucking world is this?’ in real life right now,” Weibe says. “I was going for that on the record, but in a different way. Everything seems unreal right now. So maybe it’s the perfect time for a record about a made up place in an askew reality. People come to records at different times, but I feel like for me, the release of this is always going to link Terminal Amusements and the lockdown of 2020. I’ve put out a lot of records, and I don’t think any of what was going on when they came out was this memorable.”
Pick up a copy of Terminal Amusements here.
Photo credit: Jon Weiner