Album Review: Pkew Pkew Pkew – Siiick Days

4.5/5

I’ve always said that Pkew Pkew Pkew are the most Seinfeldian of all the pop-punk bands because they specialize in writing songs about nothing. Their hit song “Asshole Pandemic” is simply a song about someone yelling at them for holding band practice in a very non-soundproofed apartment building. They have entire songs about ordering a pizza (not eating the pizza, just the actual act of ordering), songs about pre-gaming before you go out drinking, there’s a song that’s a tribute to the crappy motel they stayed at on tour, and then there’s the song “I Wanna See a Wolf” which is—you guessed it—a song about wanting to see a wolf. Just wanting to see a wolf in person, not at the zoo. That’s the whole song. Of course, there’s songs that try to go a little deeper like “Glory Days” which is about the pathetic tendency to live one’s whole life stuck in their high school days, or “Maybe Someday” about the pitfalls of moving in with one’s partner. And the band succeed at those. But it wouldn’t be a Pkew Pkew Pkew album without at least one song that makes you say “I never would have thought to write a song about something like that.”

Siiick Days isn’t different in that regard, although, for the second time, the band has Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn on board as a lyrical consultant, and he’s one of the best songwriters in the business. This means that, even when they are writing about nothing, the band is writing even better than they did on their self-titled debut. They’ve also picked up a new member, keyboardist and guitarist Kate MacLean, making the band a little less of a sausage party. Plus, after having gone through more labels than they have albums (their 2016 debut album has been reissued on multiple different labels) they’ve now signed to Stomp Records, which they seem to find to be the most fitting home for them yet. So this album finds the band at their most comfortable, giving them room to grow.

Opening track “The Dumbest Thing I Ever Done” tells the story of selling a Playstation to make ends meet only for the pandemic to hit and finding that a Playstation would be particularly helpful right now. Then “Farside Bathroom” is about taking a break from work in the bathroom to get some alone time, which is about as classic Pkew Pkew Pkew as it gets. “Read Receipts” isn’t really any deeper than the name suggests; it’s a song about the awkward social interaction inherent in modern texting technology.

Still, even in their micro-focus, there’s something deeper about the human experience in a lot of these songs. “Trooper Cover Band” is largely about agoraphobia and being dragged out when one doesn’t feel up to leaving the house. “Johan” reflects on the events of the past few years with a certain wistful melancholy that’s really brought home by MacLean’s keyboards. Siiick Days isn’t the band’s first album since the pandemic, as last year they put out Open Bar, but, as the title suggests, this is more their album about the pandemic than the last one was.

But the song that will probably be most remembered from this album will be “The Night John Buck Hit Three Home Runs” because of its shocking emotional poignance. With a single, acoustic guitar and occasional effects from the keyboards, the band starts with their micro-focus again with a song about a baseball game, but then the story turns to comforting a friend on their deathbed in a hospice while watching said baseball game. The song has a resonance that is completely unprecedented for this band, tugging on the heartstrings in a way reminiscent of the Mountain Goats. You probably couldn’t imagine a phrase as simple as “Go Blue Jays” being turned into a refrain that can make you cry, but they manage it on this song.

It seems with every album, Pkew Pkew Pkew grow a little bit more while also becoming more of the band that they’ve always been. And, in a lot of ways, that’s what growing up is for anyone. The band find new ways to explore the mundane and make it into something profound, at times funny, at other times heartbreaking. While Finn’s influence as a lyrical consultant is noticeable, it’s also obvious why someone with as much lyrical skill as Finn is willing to work with this band: because he knows they have the potential to be as good as he is.

Siiick Days is available today from the Pkew Pkew Pkew Bandcamp. Follow Pkew Pkew Pkew on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for future updates.

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