by Kris Handel (@khandel84)
Nopes are a four-piece noise-punk band from Oakland, CA and share a lot in common sonic ground with a wide swath of bands be it those from the Bay Area to late 80’s-mid 90's Touch and Go and adjacent bands. On Stapler Nopes stretch their noise to its boundaries and even though there are moments you think you might be able to pinpoint as a grounding point the band proves to be able to change course at the drop of a dime. Alex Petralia’s vocals might be buried in the mix for the most part, but his yowls add a dimension of menace although one that may be tongue-in-cheek. Stapler splits itself in two with the first half of the album filled with garage punk anthems with little interludes of noise while the latter half is on the darker noise/hardcore side.
“Lean” is a punch in the face right to start the record with it’s careening guitar and thunderous drums pushing the tempo to the Cheap Trick on speed power pop melody and Petralia wildly barking through the clatter on one of the standout tracks. “Restless” is another one of the poppier tunes on Stapler, and once again Eagret Hansen’s guitar throws out shards of lead guitar through the chording as the song blasts through 2 minutes of manic punk abandon. “Throwing Rocks” is just a loud and snotty punk anthem executed with some stop-start mechanics and tempo changes that throw a curve into the method that works so well. “Hedonistic Living” is one of the more aggressive and brutal tracks of the first side with it’s early Hüsker Dü speed-meets-Minutemen hardcore vibe that eventually breaks down into a soothing meditative acoustic guitar interlude to the full-on noise of the rest of the record.
“Hammer” works in some post-punk hardcore territory with Hansen sliding around the neck of his guitar and well-timed use of harmonics as Petralia rambles in the background on one of the subtler in comparison to the rest tracks. “Glaze” also runs in the “Hammer” territory but with a bit of a surf tone to the cascading guitar work in between switching from a pop singalong to vaguely menacing thrashing. There’s a little bit of Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard feel to “Immersion” as Petralia yowls over weaving bass lines, frantic drumming and scratching guitar that feels downright dirty. “Grinning” is the darkest moment on the record with its crawling rhythm section and sludge like pace accentuated by Petralia’s snarling and vicious vocals.
Stapler never really stops with its wild abandon and sometimes punishing, thrashing and jostling pace that recalls being in the midst of a mass of slamming bodies. In a way this is a bit of a party record, granted a party where you may get punched in the face by a maniac but in the next moment be in a warm embrace with that same maniac. There is an appeal to the madness that is hard to escape, and the record blaring away gleefully is a great soundtrack to letting loose and joining the havoc. Stapler has an explosive energy to it and although it might occasionally veer into menace, there is always an underlying playfulness to the atmosphere that keeps everything from descending into madness. Nopes have made a record that should be reveled in and one that is amongst the more impressive and noisy punk records that is hard not to smile at.