The debut album from Punks on Mars is like a simultaneously ornate and muscular take on ‘60s teen pop. The songs on Bad Expectations share the sunny melodies and the lyrically juvenile teen angst of the pop music of 50 years ago. Guitarist/lead singer Ryan Howe and bassist/singer Andrea Schiavelli have voices perfectly suited to this material. Howe sounds like any number of English singers from the ‘60s (but particularly Peter Noone), while Schiavelli’s voice is the kind of baby-doll cute that makes it easy to imagine her fronting a girl group.
Everything here doesn’t sound straight from early rock ‘n roll, though. Howe clearly has an affection for pop-rock throughout the decades, so new wave-style synths pop up here and there, and a couple of tracks even feature guitarmonies. And yes, with a band name like Punks on Mars, Howe makes sure to toss in some allusions to the glam rock of the early ‘70s and David Bowie. “She’s a Glitterpunk” manages to pile up most of these elements into one song. Bad Expectations is a cool, fun album of throwback pop, and with only one of these 14 tracks topping the three-minute mark, it’s a breezy listen. But as fun as it is, that brevity, especially when combined with the shiny candy coating, makes it difficult for most of these songs to have any sort of lasting impact.