Saturday, March 18, 2023

CD Odyssey Disc 1628: Amyl and the Sniffers

I had a very healthy week. I got two runs in at lunch time, and last night had a lovely games night out with friends where I drank very little, and woke up this morning early, feeling refreshed.

I might even wash my car today, but first…a music review!

Disc 1628 is…Comfort to Me

Artist: Amyl and the Sniffers

Year of Release: 2021

What’s up with the Cover?  This person looks like they need an ear, nose, and throat doctor in a bad way. Also an ophthalmologist.

How I Came To Know It: My friend Nick has been extolling the virtues of this band for some time. I have casually listened but taken no action. Then a couple weeks ago we were in the local record store browsing and he mentioned them again, and I decided to do something about it. I had heard a couple songs courtesy of Nick, but otherwise it was a leap of faith.

How It Stacks Up: I only have this one album by Amyl and the Sniffers but I am on the lookout now for their self-titled debut. It will have a tough time beating out this record.

Rating: 5 stars

I don’t know if it is something in the water but lately Australia has been pumping out some amazing punk rock bands. Close on the heels of the Chats (reviewed/fawned over at Disc 1619) comes Amyl and the Sniffers, once again answering the question “what if old school punk rock never died, but just got better production?

“Comfort to Me” was indeed that, although not the “cup of cocoa/sorry you lost your peewee hockey game” kind of comfort. This is comfort derived from the joy of letting loose a primal scream. The comfort of the mosh pit and the clash of guitar. That anonymous feeling where you can subsume your fury to the music, and stretch whatever metaphorical chains life may have laid upon you upon you to their utmost length.

And yeah, I turned this album up a lot when driving around with this record for the last three days. And yes, I probably held the gaze of passersby a little longer than was polite. “Comfort to Me” is an album that raws you out and dares you to interface a bit more directly with the world.

It all starts with lead singer Amy Taylor. Taylor sings like she gives exactly zero shits what you think. She is part of a tradition of tough and talented punks with something to say stretching back to Patti Smith, Poly Styrene and Wendy O. Williams. Those are big names, but Taylor belongs in the conversation alongside them. She sings (or shouts) with the same level of fury, bringing songs to life with a full understanding of her own fury and how to deploy it.

Despite the singularly angry approach, Taylor has plenty of range in her delivery. “Angels” has a short phrase driven, beat poet feel underneath it, and “Freaks to the Front” goes more for straight up hard core. This latter song is about the acceptable level of violence that goes on at a rock show close the edge of the stage. It’s a reminder it is going to get hairy in the pit, and a reminder if you’re not freak enough, then leave the space for those that are braver.

Now in my middle age, I don’t brave the mosh pit much anymore, but I love watching the young and restless down there shoving one another, understanding the unspoken rules of what’s OK and what’s not (and the occasional punch thrown when the rules are overstepped). “Freaks to the Front” is the closest thing you’ll find to reliving the experience, only minus the danger of a black eye.

Security” is another club-centered favourite. This time, the youthful experience is trying to convince the doorman you’re not too drunk, and won’t cause trouble. At least on the surface, but underneath the song is an exploration of that scene’s undercurrents of punks vs “normies” and the troubled interplay of bouncers in that mix.

The band plays tight but in a raunchy way. “Hertz” starts with a killer guitar riff that could almost be a pop song, before Taylor’s vocals arrive like a live rattlesnake thrown into a pre-teen slumber party. Time to turn off the Miley Cyrus and panic, mofos.

Knifey” is a song about what it is like for a woman trying to get home safely after dark. While stylistically very different, it pairs well with Dessa’s "Fire Drills". “Fire Drills” calls out a society that allows women to feel unsafe in these situations. “Knifey” is the other side of the same coin, only this time capturing the raw fear of the moment. With verses like:

“Nothing more important to me than just living
I'd rather be alive and well, and lockŠµd up in prison
I turn around and backtrack
Because I ain't that tough”

And a chorus that sums it up in all its stark reality:

“Out comes the night, out comes my knifey
This is how I get home nightly”


If you want to dig in that way “Comfort to Me” is a powerful album with a lot to say. Or maybe you just want the music to wash over you and invigorate you with its power. Maybe shove a few people at the live show in a friendly way. That works too. It is one of the best albums of 2021 which I missed earlier by not paying close enough attention to the very good advice of friends. I got there eventually. Consider me converted.

Best tracks: All tracks

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