If the pop-punk onslaught of the ‘90s and early 2000s left you with the impression that punk music loses its edge with the introduction of melodies and hooks, New York City quartet The Underbites are here to remind us all that accessibility and grit don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Founded by veteran guitarists and veteran listeners Jon Fox and Kurt Feldhun, The Underbites may have formed in 2020, but their origins date back to when Fox and Feldhun witnessed the halcyon days of punk first-hand.
Their new EP, Four Songs About Girls, makes its debut today.
For Fox and Feldhun, The Underbites is a return to some of their earliest musical loves. But you’re just as likely to hear a passing flash of, say, Attractions-era Elvis Costello in Feldhun’s playing as you are a chugga-chugga riff. In fact, for a band that describe themselves as “unrepentant traditionalists,” The Underbites give themselves lots of headroom to draw from whatever they feel like dialing-up.
Listening to the band’s full-length debut Sort It Out alongside the new EP Four Songs About Girls, one is reminded that the music from the classic CBGB, SoCal, NYHC and Warped Tour scenes were all highly distinct from one another. But The Underbites possess such fluency with the punk canon that all the music flows as if from the same source. The Four Girls track “Sincerely Jemma Jane,” for example, started out as a Rancid-influenced anthem, but it ended up landing closer to Social Distortion.
Further afield, Michael Hoffman‘s snare figure at the start of the Sort It Out cut “Che Guevarra,” nods to John Bonham’s iconic “Rock and Roll” intro, but he executes it with sufficient finesse to recall Los Lobos’ Louie Perez channeling legendary
Meters drummer Zigaboo Modeliste.Lyrically, Fox draws as much from The Beach Boys, Squeeze and Robyn Hitchcock as he does from the Sex Pistols. With Sort It Out, The Underbites proved that provocative music can provoke thought in the best sense of the word. Whether tackling activist posturing, consumer culture, economic decline, racial division, the sleazy machinations of politics, or polarizing figures like Donald Trump and Michael Moore, Fox is masterful at jolting listeners with an initial shock that, on closer inspection, reveals layers of thought.