At its best, the Dirty Tactics’ form of pop-punk transcends the genre’s limited arsenal of crashing rhythms, whiny-snarling lyrics and bad-boy subject matter (free-floating, misunderstood misanthropy). “Baltimore” introduces a wavering farfisa line that sounds like it’s wandered in from another record; a similar keyboard sound crops up in the slower number “Side of the Road”, which also manages to use teen angst to good effect. “La Cancion to Los Andes” and “Mi Chozita” both make use of Spanish-language, Spanish-guitar intros before bringing the noise.
Ultimately, though, the musicians’ limited chops render the music more of a chore than a joy to listen to. Songs like “When You Wake Up”, “The Process” and “It Is What It Is” rely on simpleminded guitar battery and teen-angsty vocals that sound familiar from a thousand other songs. What’s original here isn’t especially competent; what’s competent isn’t particularly original.