Pow! come out of San Francisco with a palpable anger towards the gentrification and spiraling cost of living in their city fueled by Silicon Valley technology companies. Anchored by buzzing, oscillating synths that serve both as the band’s bass and general noise, Hi-Tech Boom has a unique sound. The way vocalist/guitarist Byron Blum speak-sings his way through the record is pretty off-putting, especially when paired with the synth noise. But it seems like it’s supposed to be; this is dystopian San Francisco by way of a synth-punk trio. That doesn’t make Hi-Tech Boom any easier to listen to, and it doesn’t help that the whole album has a thin, tinny sound that’s one step short of low-fi. It also doesn’t help that Pow! seem to still be learning how to write songs. Tracks stop after 90 seconds or two minutes, just when they’re getting going. It often sounds like Blum just considers the song finished when he’s done reciting his lyrics, whether or not the music has reached a logical stopping point. On the one hand, that’s totally punk rock, but on the other hand, that’s not particularly good songwriting.
Occasionally, though, the band manages to put a track together that feels like a completed idea. “Hi-Tech Boom” has a real chorus, “Hope Dealers” has a solid guitar riff, and “At the Station” finishes out with a glitchy, distorted instrumental jam. The record gets stronger as it goes, as well, with penultimate track “Shoes (PLEH)” having an honest-to-God synth melody and closer “Fire Hose” successfully combining most of the band’s elements into one angry, almost-catchy rocker. Altogether, it makes for an intriguing but frustrating listen.
// Notes from the Road
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