We left thought behind in 2022. 2023 is the year for himboism, bimboism, escapism, and play — a year of Barbie, bad horror, and impersonal pop. Three years have passed since the first lockdown, and there’s never been a less appropriate time to be so self-serious. Collectively, we’ve had our fill of introspection, and in its absence we’ve rediscovered fun. It’s a sentiment that perfectly matches the M.O. of Snõõper, Nashville’s greatest new punk band: Don’t think about it, just do whatever makes you feel giddy. When the world’s feeling too stupid, outdumb it. When the world’s spinning too fast, outrun it.
With songs that explode like a nailbomb and travel at a breakneck speed while retaining the precision of a Formula 1 driver, Snõõper’s debut album Super Snõõper, out this Friday on Jack White’s Third Man Records, feels as extravagant and lawless as child’s play. Right from the get-go, with opener “Stretching” — a dusty 8-track recording of rubbery, wiggly basslines that stop and start with abandon — Snõõper’s debut is the sonic equivalent of a fidgety kid spilling toys from a toy box. Flitting fast between garage rock, surf rock, alien synths, drum ‘n’ bass, field recordings, and samples lifted from a bodybuilding competition, the band’s ecstatic musical chops and nonsensical changes are like picking up a fuzzy snake, then a shiny purple ball, then a box of magnets, then a choo-choo train, and discarding them within seconds.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise then that Blair Tramel, the band’s lead, works as an early education teacher on the side. She clearly, and quite enviably, has retained the mischievous glee of childhood, suffusing the band’s music with an irrepressible energy, contagious enough to make even the most fed up parents dance along with the kids — both literally and in spirit. At their live shows, Snõõper encourage an audience of all ages. There, you’ll find a mix of puppetry, 8-bit animation, dumbbells, whistles, and dadaist punk reminiscent of Quintron and Miss Pussycat. The band’s first long-player is sequenced like one of their live shows, broken into mini sets of songs that bleed into one another.
Snõõper, which began during the first lockdown in 2020, was originally envisioned as a two-person project between Tramel and guitarist Connor Cummins. They committed their playful songs to 8-track, releasing them on tiny DIY labels, retaining a punkish sense of enigma as those tapes scattered across the world, showing up in record store bins without context or real sense of who the band actually was. They removed that veil of mystery when pandemic restrictions were lifted, and they began to develop a strong sense of the band’s identity at their now infamous live shows, where they’ve since recruited bassist Happy Haugen, drummer Cam Sarrett and guitarist Ian Teeple to help intensify their sound.
You can hear the members’ hardcore upbringing in the demented riffs on “BedBugs,” the anxiety-attack drumming on “Powerball,” and the tart disdain on “TownTopic,” but those mean influences are ultimately sweetened by Tramel’s sprightly presence. Her vocals are like a self-assured and dry-humored cheerleader. “Listening to yourself speak! Thinking that you’re so unique!” she chants like a shroom-fueled flyer on “Xerox.”
Snõõper lift the friendliest parts from all their influences. This is essentially cuddly, partyish hardcore mixed in with all the best parts of egg punk: its herky-herky rhythms, legitimate peculiarity, deep commitment to “the bit,” but without any of its uptight and anti-social associations. This isn’t even serious fun, it’s just straight-up precision-engineered tomfoolery. The perfect mix for a post-Coneheads punk landscape.
Most of the songs on Super Snõõper are ostensibly made with the live show audiovisuals and props in mind. “Fitness” inspired Tramel to make and perform with papier-mâché dumbbells; no doubt “Fruitfly” and “Bedbugs” will have their own attendant creatures. It’s a strange aesthetic credo, to be sure, but this prop-first mentality somehow hugely benefits the final recorded product. When everything — the perspicuous lyrics, haywire production, erratic construction — is made to take a backseat to the goofy and spectacular, it means that nothing is overthought or overwrought. Every element is made in service of play.
We so often think of songs as a space in which to transpose our most crucial thoughts, to transmute our most irreconcilable feelings, to place the most buried and profound parts of ourselves. Snõõper instead treat them as a vehicle for their most inane observations, their fleeting thoughts, their plainest and most straightforward emotions. Even the way they tackle the culture of exercise and the pursuit to attain physical perfection — obviously, an extremely loaded topic — is loveably sincere and uncomplicated. “Fitness,” which opens with a soundbite from a competitive bodybuilder, is simply a missive to enjoy exercise, to not give a shit about “abdominal development” but to just run, jump, dance for the sheer thrill of it. With whistles interspersing rapid-fire guitar riffs and verses stopping and starting as suddenly as a runner making a false start, it’s hard not to do just that. This is music made for pogoing along with. Don’t stop and think about it; that’ll only slow you down.
Super Snõõper’s 16 tracks whirl by with breathless speed, leaving you in an adrenaline-fuelled dust cloud. The album rewards repeat listens; eventually, as you learn to hook onto each buried power chord, secret cowbell, and fried groove, you’ll find yourself catching up to the band. Despite its sense of abandon, the meticulous control and precision of Super Snõõper will reveal itself, too, proving that it takes a hell of a lot of thought to be so perfectly thoughtless.
Super Snõõper is out 7/14 on Third Man.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Palehound’s Eye On The Bat
• Blake Mills’ Jelly Road
• Ana Roxanne and DJ Python’s self-titled debut as Natural Wonder Beauty Concept
• Colter Wall’s Little Songs
• The massive screamo compilation Balladeers, Redefined
• Lindstrøm’s Everyone Else Is A Stranger
• J Hus’ Beautiful And Brutal Yard
• glaive’s I care so much that I dont care at all
• Rita Ora’s You & I
• Rusty Santos’ New Wave In California
• Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real’s Sticks And Stones
• Temple Of Angels’ Endless Pursuit
• Claud’s Supermodels
• Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog’s Connection
• Greta Van Fleet’s Starcatcher
• Alaska Reid’s Disenchanter
• EXO’s Exist
• Reason’s Porches
• Mike Cooper’s Life And Death In Paradise
• Freak Heat Waves’ Mondo Tempo
• Being Dead’s When Horses Would Run
• PVRIS’ Evergreen
• Night Beats’ Rajan
• Duane Betts’ Wild & Precious Life
• MisterWives’ Nosebleeds
• Chamber’s A Love To Kill For
• Peace Flag Ensemble’s Astral Plains
• Steve Salett’s First Landing
• BT’s The Secret Language Of Trees
• Shapednoise’s Absurd Matter
• Jaye Jayle’s Don’t Let Your Love Life Let You Down
• End Reign’s The Way Of All Flesh Is Decay
• Anish Kumar’s A Mixtape by Anish Kumar
• John Coltrane With Eric Dolphy’s Evenings At The Village Gate
• Neil Young’s Official Release Series Volume 5 Box Set
• Gordon Lightfoot’s At Royal Albert Hall
• George Benson’s Live At Montreux 1986
• Mike Cooper’s Milan Live Acoustic 2018
• Devon Kay & The Solutions’ Fine: A Ska EP