It is my firm belief that the classic tropes of old-school rock-n-roll will never go out of fashion. There’s a reason that, when punk and post-punk groups decided to raze the music world to the ground in the wake of the over-indulgent ‘60s and ‘70s, they returned in droves to the sounds of Chuck Berry and ‘50s garage rock. From the energy driving such tunes to the back-to-basics fundamentals present in the instrumentation and arrangements, it isn’t difficult to understand how musicians and music fans always find a way to hearken afresh to these sounds.
It in this spirit that Trent Fox and The Tenants made the Mess Around EP. This five-song record is a kinetic mix of garage and post-punk fare with some hefty sock-hop sensibilities that calls to mind the sort of bare-bones rock played by The Clash and The Ramones, combined with elements of Wire and The Stray Cats, and played with the reverent revivalism of The Strokes and The White Stripes. Yet, for all of those names I just dropped, this earnest quartet out of Milwaukee, WI has a big personality all its own: big guitar licks stand astride a sturdy rhythm section, complete with warbly leads and good movement in the power chord progressions.
Also, I’m a fan of Fox’s wry, sarcastic lyrics, as he regularly lampoons scene politics and overly mushy romantic paeans. When he talks about going back inside to beat Super Mario 3 on “Sounds Fine To Me,” you can’t help but laugh as you imagine him dismissing his annoying, overbearing girlfriend from his front porch for something much more interesting inside.
Led by “Mess Around” and “Outta My Mind,” the Mess Around EP is a raucous collection of short, punchy tunes that might not be fancy, but they’re definitely catchy and laden with time-honored hooks. Trent Fox and The Tenants have crafted an irreverent, tongue-in-cheek take on vintage rock-n-roll, but with a high degree of respect for the past. I’m eager to hear how the band pushes its sound on future releases – I’d like to hear a few more ballads to balance out the up-tempo numbers, and it would be interesting to hear if the guys find a way to embrace some doo-wop as well.