Queer-identified garage punk band PWR BTTM has made quite a splash in the music world. The punk-rock duo consists of genderqueer rockers Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins (both go by they/them/theirs pronouns), who studied at Bard College together before relocating to Brooklyn, New York. The duo is currently touring across the country following the 2015 release of “Ugly Cherries,” their debut studio album.
“Ugly Cherries” is a powerhouse punk record filled with romantic angst, heated lust and flamboyant gender nonconformity. None of the songs run longer than three minutes, which brings the album’s total run time to under 30 minutes. Fun fact: the album was produced and engineered by Christopher Daly at Salvation Recording Co., which is based in New Paltz, New York. It makes sense, too, since PWR BTTM hails from Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.
The album opens with “Short-Lived Nightmare,” which sets the tone for the remainder of the record. “Dairy Queen,” a fun, upbeat track, is next in the lineup. The group’s lyrics are fun and playful, which jives perfectly with their hard drum beats and punk rock sound.
“I Wanna Boi” is one of the standout tracks off this album. The duo sings about queer longing and lust, with lyrics like, “I want a boy who thinks it’s sexy when my lipstick bleeds.” Bruce and Hopkins add a comical element, referencing their Bard College roots with a line about hitting them up at their bard.edu email address. The title track, “Ugly Cherries,” is another catchy hit that quickly made its way into my spring playlist.
“Serving Goffman” and “Nu 1” are good tracks, but neither stands out to me as particularly remarkable. Ditto with most of the remaining tracks. “1994” and “C U Around,” though, are two other highlights off of “Ugly Cherries,” with “1994” capturing the angst of missing a long-lost lover. The song’s bridge opens with an epic guitar solo and ends on a softer note, transitioning smoothly into “C U Around.” This track is decidedly more mellow, channeling the soreness surrounding post-breakup interactions with an ex. Its lyrics are simple, but that’s part of the song’s genius: it is a raw, honest depiction of bitterness and heartbreak.
It’s safe to say that “Ugly Cherries” impressed me. With their snappy lyrics, sweet guitar solos and Bruce and Hopkin’s dreamy vocals, PWR BTTM is a new favorite of mine.