Artist – The Villiantinos
Album/Label – The Villiantinos / Thunder and Lightning
Rating – 6/10
The Columbus punk-rock scene seems to thrive on the fact that a lot of us are just dirty old rockers looking to nod our heads and stick our fingers out defiantly. I am always grateful for the opportunity to review a record from an up and coming act, especially one that promises to “pack fifty pounds of rock into a ten-pound sack.” I mean, what more can you ask from that?
The Villiantinos are vocalist Leah Pugh, and joined by guitarist Todd Novak, bassist Jay Donovan and drummer Matt Grover. They first came together in 2019 and have been kicking around the city for the last year and a half before live music was abruptly halted in March 2020. Undeterred, the band released their debut record last month and we’ve got the scoop for you on this 23 minute package.
The album was produced by Jon Fintel at Relay Recording in Columbus, who previously worked with the likes of The Worn Flints, The Cordial Sins and Bicentennial Bear. The group quickly put the album together before the quarantine came down, and Pugh promised to “show a little teeth.”
Naturally, album kicks off with a “HEY!” from Pugh before the listener is catapulted into the grimy proto-punk opener Never Look Back. Immediately she tells it like it is… “Hell hath no fury, cuz you never did treat me right, pack up my bags, you know I’m leaving you tonight!” Grover’s drums immediately set the tone for the record as the guitars flow together, up and down the scale. The track is a perfect middle finger to any bad relationship in your past.
Submission Mission continues the assault, with a tasty rumbling bassline from Donovan sliding alongside Grover’s frantic drums. The song is dripping with sexual energy, and Pugh’s growl tickles the back of your neck as well as the inside of your ears.
Gimme Somethin’ is probably my favourite track from the album, as the quartet dials back the pace while still capturing the traditional punk standards of the genres forefathers. Despite the decline, there’s just something that feels right about listening to this song, especially when placed against the previous two songs.
Grover ramps things back up on Drain Me, another sexually charged number about a man that Pugh just cannot get off her mind. You might want to take a shower after this one. I felt like we were headed down to a female-fronted version of New Bomb Turks on this ditty.
After that we find Boundaries, which I assume the band wanted to promote as a single, as it is followed by a radio edit that awkwardly bleeps a couple of F-bombs. It seems to be a rather confusing choice for such a thing, as it is easily the tamest song that sounds the least like anything else on the record.
If you had to take a guess, I’m sure you could figure out what Speak in Tongues is about. The Villiantinos make no bones (bad pun, I know) about what is on their mind throughout the record.
Bring Me the Night is the only song that runs over three minutes, and finds Novak exploring his pedal board as he pulls a solo out near the end of the song, as well. Rerun puts a cap on the disc with a little more punch and bravado, rescuing a tame second half of the album. You can definitely feel their Queens Of The Stone Age influence on this track.
In listening to the record, The Villiantinos seem like a group that would be a lot of fun to stand up front and mosh with. The album makes me wonder about what direction they are really looking to take with their sound; are they wanting to be old school punk or stoner rock, or a mix of something in between?
The first half of the record made me think I was hanging out with The Scratches or The Methmatics, but the band seemed to take their feet off the gas pedal on the last four songs. I’m not sure if that was intentional, or if the group would’ve been better served to release two separate EPs. As it stands, the music is still solid, the juxtaposition just seems a bit jerky.
However, Pugh shows a lot of promise and the certain highpoint for me is the drumming from Grover, who is powerful when needed while still being quick and agile across his kit. It seems like whatever direction the band does choose to go through, they will be well suited and supported along the way. If nothing else, I can definitely tell that they’d put on a helluva live show.
- Never Look Back
- Submission Mission
- Gimme Somethin’
- Drain Me
- Boundaries (Radio Edit)
- Speak in Tongues
- Bring Me the Night