The local punk scene is treading water. Our few punk bands seem to have trouble showing up to their gigs, and the ruthless Americana machine continues to cut a terrifying swath across the land.
At first, I blamed a general lack of interest, but I'm slowly coming to realize that rockers who continue to operate under the punk banner still work their asses off to create a viable and exciting subscene.
Furthermore, some among us constantly bitch about this void, biding our time by sewing Exploited back patches onto our denim jackets and squatting in abandoned buildings.
If we are to have any hope for some sort of punk-ish redemption, surely These Charming Cobras leads the charge. The trio—guitarist Damon Archuletta (with two Ts), bassist Chris Chavez and drummer/vocalist Tommy Archuleta (with one T, no relation to Damon)—formed late last year, and the boys have been hard at work ever since.
The band’s composition hardly surprises, as each member has, in one way or another, contributed heavily to Santa Fe’s punk identity for well over a decade. Some of our most memorable local bands have featured TCC members (Knowital, Angola Farms and 27 Devils Joking, to name a few), so we’re talking all-star lineup here, nerds. Now, the group is approaching its first anniversary and has released a debut album titled Dime Sized Deaths.
On Deaths, TCC has prepared a rather impressive hodgepodge of such beloved punk elements as aggressive/fast-paced rhythms and deceptively simple bass and drums. The basic vibe is Fugazi meets Snapcase, but then goes to hang out at Rocket from the Crypt’s house with barely noticeable garage punk themes of chunky guitar fuzz and off-kilter rhythms.
The trio has drawn comparison to stoner rock, but this is hardly the dominant element on the album; Deaths is a good old-fashioned punk record. Certainly, slower-paced songs can be found on the album, but Archuletta's use of the throwback down-pick guitar technique is much more Ramones than Sleep. Think early Nirvana: grungy and endearingly lo-fi, without sacrificing complexity.
If the songs sound familiar, that's because the imitation was intentional.
"We almost write our songs like we're producing odes for bands we like…we're not out to reinvent the wheel," Archuleta says.
Grasping this attention to the art of homage provides simultaneous feelings of comfort and intrigue, which is to say that, while you're busy trying to pin down what influence TCC mirrors, you find that you've been humming along inadvertently.
Archuleta (one T) handles the bulk of lyrical duties and, like TCC's namesake, the record explores the concept of death as transition rather than ending, touching on ideas such as the aftermath of losing a loved one, and the sad and premature end to a once-cherished relationship. It's a refreshing take on modern punk rock, which allows for the increasingly rare, high-caliber punk release to contain a constant theme, Archuleta vividly and poetically portraying the complicated and mixed emotions that accompany death and change in their many forms.
As we speak, TCC is writing a new album that each member proudly describes as a complete departure from Deaths.
"We've started writing songs that have a totally different sound than our current ones, but we didn't purposefully set out to change our style," Archuletta (two Ts) says.
Watch this band very closely. It will no doubt play a pivotal and dearly needed role in revitalizing the local punk rock scene.
These Charming Cobra’s new album is temporarily available as a free
download at thesecharmingcobras.bandcamp.com
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