Remember the first time you heard The Buzzcocks? Your thoughts probably sounded something like those of a stern — ahem “cross” — British schoolteacher reprimanding her uniform-toting pupils. Their music felt obstinate. Insolent. Impudent. Sadly few bands have been able to pull off that level of sass with aplomb but were there worthy successors to Howard Devoto’s pre-Magazine throne it’d be Toronto-via-Sudbury’s Pink Wine. High praise we know.
Those aren’t empty platitudes though. It’s evident that the band — led by mustachioed frontman Joel French of the Ketamines and Hosehead Recs act Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs and backed members of Rising Crust the Ultimatemost High and more — is as well trained as a Connecticut teenage youth crew militia. Pink Wine’s razor-sharp guitars form a saucy ’77-vintage blend of U.K. power-pop punk rock and pub rock but this isn’t all retro; the sharp production also draws contemporary comparables in Regulations and The Adored (otherwise known as Ryan George’s coke-snorting post-Carry On mod act). Not that Pink Wine’s debut is full-fleshed Brit worship. There are forays into O.G. California hardcore (“Bad Faith”) saccharine waltzing garage (“I Like Pink Wine”) and bursts of provocative pop-punk (“Cold Sweats”).
Still for their stylistic forays Pink Wine never feels undercooked or scatterbrained — and that largely is a credit to French’s phlegm-drenched vocals which sound like he’s part huffing helium part recovering from a six-month battle with pneumonia. Yet when he leads the LP’s bona fide sing-alongs — and most tracks are bursting with them though I’m partial to “Don’t” whose schizoid gang vocals are an album highlight — it’s possible to see the heights Pink Wine can achieve. Like Statues one of Sudbury’s most beloved acts Pink Wine blend balls-out aggression snot-rocket pop and roughed-up hooks as addictive as garden-variety amphetamines.