Brooklyn and Queens have always been the heart of the New York punk scene. The Ramones, The Dictators, and Blondie all found their audience and sound among the garages, basements, and dive bars of the sister boroughs. Recently, newer bands have been tearing through the scene by blending the punk roots of the area with more pop-heavy melodies and harmonies. Ticker Tape, comprised of Andrew Cunningham and Mike Salerno, is currently at the forefront of the changing punk season in New York. Their newest release, Shift Breaks, uses the punk formula and gives it a different take on the same sound.
The vocals on this album remind me heavily of early Yellowcard and Joyride-era Transit. The harmonies created by Cunningham and Salerno are lush and bouncy. These harmonies tend to smooth over the lyrics of the band’s particular style of intensely detailed storytelling. The blend between the duo’s voices really gives the record a color that is both familiar and yet distinctive. “Hausman Street” shows off the interesting mixture of Andrew and Mike’s voices. Similar to Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain’s on Nevermind, the melody lines are predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less memorable or enjoyable.
The guitars are front and center for this release. In nearly every track, you can hear multiple layers of distorted middle voices that go nicely against the purity of Andrew and Mike’s vocals. However, these crunchy guitars can tend to bury the rhythm section. The bass work on this album is fantastic. The punchy tone is stylistically appropriate and helps to propel some of the less adventurous songs, like “Decades”. The bass line on “Take It Back” in particular really grooves and could become a highlight of the release if it wasn’t buried behind what sounds like a wall of Fender amps with tube screamers piped in. All in all, though, the musicianship on this album is impressive, especially for an independent band with mainly local experience.
The production on this album is intriguing. At times, Ticker Tape seems to be overproduced. The edge of their punk roots is refined by the studio, but as a listener, you tend to want certain mistakes or hiccups to get a better connection with the song. The highly-produced nature is prominent in certain tracks and assists songs, like “The Remedy”. However, other songs have a jaunty and almost unfinished nature from a production standpoint. The songs are well written, but the levels within the recordings themselves are simply off balanced. Other times the instruments are not captured in their best way. For example, one of my favorite tracks on the album, “Car Is a Mess” sees the vocal line drowned by multiple layers of guitar tracks. Also, “Meet Me in Brooklyn”, has a beautiful intro that is captured well in the studio. However, the transition almost tears the song apart. The band gets a great bounce out of the tune, but the instrumental tracks are not captured well. They either seem to muffled, like the bass line or too sharp, like the guitar lead. Overall, the listener should be able to see past the inconsistent production on this album to connect with the original sound of Ticker Tape.
“The Remedy/Chasing Trains” “Car Is a Mess” & “Hausman Street”
Overall, Shift Breaks, offers a solid listen from a budding band in the NYC music scene. It is definitely a crowd pleaser for the pop-punk and punk audiences, but the album does lend itself to a larger listener basis. As a first release, there are growing pains, but nothing that hinders the release to the point of alienation. Shift Breaks, allows Ticker Tape to stay true to their roots, while also exploring their own contribution to New York’s distinct brand of punk music.