Detroit may not be the first city that comes to mind when punk rock is mentioned; one doesn’t associate Detroit with punk to the degree that one associates Los Angeles, New York City, London or San Francisco with punk. But in fact, Detroit had a vibrant punk scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Plus, some of the rockers who had a strong Motor City connection before that helped pave the way for punk (including Iggy Pop & the Stooges, MC5 and Alice Cooper). Bearing those things in mind, it makes perfect sense for a Detroit-based band like alchalant (they don’t capitalize their name) to wave the punk flag on “Better Off Dead.” This digital single is tough, edgy and rugged yet melodic; alchalant are punk and alternative rock, but they are also rock & roll. The direct influences that alchalant bring to the table range from Green Day to the Clash to early Offspring (before they came out with cutesy novelty tunes like “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”) to the proto-punk of Iggy & the Stooges. Most of the influences that one hears on “Better Off Dead” are American influences, but at the same time, alchalant’s fondness for the British punk and pub rock of the Clash and Sham 69 comes through. One could say that “Better Off Dead” has a transatlantic sound, although the American punk elements are more prominent than the British punk elements.
Alex Matijow, alchalant’s lead singer, shows himself to be an asset to the band. Matijow has a punk snarl, but it’s a punk snarl with empathy; Matijow is able to express empathy as opposed to strictly expressing attitude. And it should be noted that “Better Off Dead” is not emo; there is some vulnerability at work here, but it isn’t an emo-ish sort of vulnerability. Matijow, rather, favors the “tough guy with a heart” approach to punk and alternative rock.
“Better Off Dead” is not a breathtaking song, but it’s a likable song. These spirited Midwesterners are worth keeping an eye on.
Review by Alex Henderson
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)