Washington Social Club – Catching Looks

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Another random budget bin pickup, I am 90% certain I got this at Hi-Fi Records in Chicago. As usual with these kinds of things, I don’t know much about the band. They came out of D.C. in 2002, and this was their first of two releases. They opened for the likes of Hot Hot Heat and the Hold Steady. The foursome was made up of vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Martin Royle, bassist Olivia Mancini, guitarist Evan Featherstone, and drummer Randall Scope.

What I Think of This Album

This is a fun album. It’s pretty much just that simple. The energy on this is off the charts, propelling catchy, scrappy songs that revolve around a strong rhythm section and Martin Royle’s appealing yelp.

The pop-punk of “On the Inside” is taken to another level altogether with the “run for the hills” shouts at the end. “Are You High?” rides a wave of harmony vocals, a bouncy bass, and insistent drumming. The best song is the randy “Breaking the Dawn” with variations of the irresistible early line “When you turned on your radio / Your radio turned me on” – the harmonies, the martial drumming, the needle-nosed distorted guitar lead veering into slight feedback, and Royle’s adenoidal vocals engage in a sweaty dance in the basement. The attempt at emotional poignancy on “Dancing Song” is unnecessary but doesn’t hurt what is a blast of guitar pop, with some great bursts of vocalization at the end. “Simple Sound” is appropriately titled – another fine pop song. “Dead Kid Song” isn’t terribly special but closes strong, and while I don’t love “Backed To the Future,” the chorus is fantastic, with some nice bass work, as well. I detect a slight Jam sound to my least favorite song, “Modern Trance,” but I am not sure I can explain it – this sounds like a deep cut on The Gift. There is a nice change of pace with the acoustic guitar and vibes arrangement in “River and the Road.” As much as I like the bass lines, something about the tone doesn’t seem right.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Breaking the Dawn”

Release Date

2004

The Cover Art

Big ol’ “nope.” I’m not sure what the goal was here, but either that goal was misguided or the execution failed.

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