[16 May 2014]
Earl Boykins is a punk band named after the NBA journeyman and former Eastern Michigan Unversity standout, and not, sadly, a musical project from the man himself. Friends is a brief album, with its eight tracks clocking in at less than 25 minutes. The band has some chops, though, tossing off interesting guitar riffs, basslines, and drumbeats throughout the album. Vocalists Alex Antiuk and Noah London can’t really sing, but they sound distinctly different from each other and both yowl with a lot of energy. Opener “Doves” gets by on its cool guitar riffs and strong use of feedback, while second track “Leggy Blondes” works due to the locked-in groove of drummer Alex Aitken and bassist Craig Vacek. Other tracks are hit and miss. The brief “Sad Girl” sounds like a catchy indie pop tune the band realized they couldn’t pull off with their vocalists, so it stops just short of one minute. The closing ballad “Stoned” probably features the best singing on the record but maybe the least creative music. On the positive side, the four minute epic “Crawling After Me” opens with a slow, fuzzed-out Black Sabbath riff and effectively transitions out of it into something punkier, and even more impressive, slides back into it two thirds of the way through. And the 97-second “Planet” feels like an effective early Descendents-style pop-punk song that the band actually completed instead of bailing out on.