On Amyl and the Sniffers 2019 self-titled debut LP, the Aussie punks went straight for the jugular, refusing to consider high production, legible vocals, or clean guitars. And it worked. So when the band regrouped, they decided not to mess up the formula.
Comfort to Me, the band’s latest effort, has only a few marginal differences: a couple songs are longer, a couple songs are slower, and now it doesn’t sound like the album was recorded in the back of a rat infested port-o-potty. If that bums you out, just look at what the band decided to retain: pummeling power, non-stop mania, and confrontational belligerence.
Opening track ‘Guided By Angels’ is a mission statement for the ages. For the next 30-ish minutes, the Sniffers will be levelling monster riffs and extreme attitude directly at your eardrums while Amy Taylor brags about energy being her currency. She’s not wrong: there’s barely any time to catchy your breath before another brain-rattling tune gets counted off.
If melody is a necessity for you to enjoy a certain band, then Amyl and the Sniffers aren’t going to work for you. The only song that even flirts with a vocal melody on Comfort to Me is ‘Security’, and that’s, at most, a passing note or two in the chorus. That’s not to say that the album doesn’t have its fare shares of hooks and earworms. It’s just that they come wrapped in barbed wire.
Lead singer Amy Taylor has one mode and one mode only: full throttle aggression. Whether it’s begging to be let into a pub, raging against the industry that sexualises any female-fronted band, or just telling some asshole to piss off, the snarl and spit can be felt like she’s in the room with you, tearing up your clothes and punching holes in your wall in real time.
Behind her, drummer Bryce Wilson, guitarist Dec Martens, and bassist Fergus Romer lay down manic backbeats that range from frantic to downright dizzying. When they do slow down on tracks like ‘Knifey’ and ‘No More Tears’, the band still ride the razor’s edge, teetering on the brink of chaos at any moment. If you wanted to gripe, you could say that there’s no dynamics, no variation, or no grooves, but did anyone ever complain about the Ramones not having any groove? I don’t think so.
The only downside to Comfort to Me is that, when the tracks don’t find their hook, they inevitably become repetitious and unmemorable. It’s damn near impossible to forget songs like ‘Maggot’ and ‘Don’t Need a Cunt (Like You To Love Me)’, but songs like ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ and ‘Choices’ wind up getting lost in the shuffle. But when you’ve gone around enough times to pick up on what Taylor is saying, a sharp wit and fed up attitude are revealed within the breakneck speeds and harried screams. Taylor is confident and in no mood to take any bullshit throughout Comfort to Me, and if you don’t like it, you can gladly get off the runaway train.
But when the train is this much fun, why would you want to do something like that? Punk rock, at its best, is infectious in a way that translates directly to the primal side of your brain. There doesn’t have to be anything logical about it: it just had to connect. Amyl and the Sniffers grab you by the collar on Comfort to Me and refuse to let go, directly challenging you to break out of ambivalence and connect with them. I recommend getting on board. It’s best for everyone that way.