The US punks' second album may have taken three years to arrive, but it's worth the wait
The follow-up to Cerebral Ballzy’s stunningly succinct eponymous 2011 debut has taken long enough to now be ‘much anticipated’, although those intervening years haven’t been short on incident either. The hardcore skatepunk Brooklyn five-piece have since signed to Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, lost and found a drummer and headlined the 2013 NME Radar Tour just for starters. Much more can change in three years, of course, and trepidation was the order of the day when, in 2012, singer Honor Titus preached to NME a mantra of, “more melody, more ideas, more thought”, and, somewhat oddly, hinted at a Philip Glass influence.
From the moment ‘Jaded & Faded’ busts out of your speakers, it’s plain that forays into the avant garde will be scant. Opener ‘Another Day’ might signify a new era, but it’s the same old Ballzy, even if it runs much longer than most of the songs on their debut, clocking in at a mighty two minutes and 27 seconds. It commences with a lone, funereal guitar line, before everything kicks in violently, barely letting up until the sinewy last refrain of the album. There are still plenty of ‘Speed Wobbles’ (1:08) for the stringent punk purist, while ‘Lonely As America’ (prog-like at 3:12) and the Ramones-esque ‘Better In Leather’ are full of those aforementioned heightened melodies. It’s little wonder Casablancas has called Ballzy “the coolest band in the world at the moment”, because these mini-epics are the catchiest tunes of their career to date (and thankfully their juggernaut is too cumbersome to veer disastrously into vapid pop punk territory).
Having TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek on board to produce doesn’t hurt. Although, here he surely has nothing to do other than hit play/record and then recline and marvel at Ballzy’s pulverising menace. That and Honor’s cool-as-fuck drawl, as nonchalantly classy as any legendary showperson you might care to mention.
Perhaps best of all, though, is that title. ‘Jaded & Faded’ strikes a fine balance between self-deprecation and the supreme confidence needed to get away with suggesting you’ve had your chips. But there’s no second album syndrome here. It whoops ass.