Reading about Los Angeles-based Angus Crowne’s debut album, titled Angus Crowne and the Family Jewels, one already expects to be taken by surprise. The self-described older, wiser, and a little frustrated and bitter artist states that he has created a whole new genre in order to adequately share some of his daily experiences in a funny, yet insightful way: uke-billy punk.
This implies that one must have an open mind before cracking open this 10-track set, which Crowne created with the help of Andrea Balestra (guitar) and Alejandra Arellano (drums). The overall vibe of the genre is, however, kind of familiar to those listeners comfortable with mashups. It is basically the coming together of Americana and punk rock featuring the ukulele.
Three of the tracks on the album are of this genre. The lyrics in the uptempo “Cold Soup” come off as simple and sweet, discussing said meal as a metaphor for a relationship gone cold over a punk rock-tasting melody that is somewhat smoothed over. This taste is even more diluted in the melody of the uptempo “Paycheck”; however, the angrier lyrics and the more forceful vocals make up for it. “Sandbox” marks the best balance of Americana and punk rock with a surprisingly coherent and consistent result.
Some of the numbers remain firmly in Americana territory. The bass line in the mid-tempo “Heart and Soul” leads the way into a sweet and gentle ballad which demonstrates that Crowne isn’t as bitter as he might lead listeners to believe. “Man Bun”, however, shows us that there is a side of him that is definitely frustrated with some aspects of today’s society, calling for the death of the hairdo of the same name. If one doesn’t pay attention to the lyrics, one might think that the uptempo number is a positive and happy track when in fact the lyrics sharply contrast with the annoyance and frustration they convey. It remains a fun song to listen to as it doesn’t verge into hate speech territory, remaining more in the place where some older fathers, confused with their children’s choices, are.
Unsurprisingly, Crowne uses punk rock as a way to convey his frustrations very clearly. “Lullaby Blues” starts with a gentle ukulele before plunging unapologetically into punk rock madness with the main lyric being a swear word—making it basically a track showing the finger to the world. I personally don’t like swearing so I didn’t make it through the first little bit, but I can see how someone angry at the world would play this one loudly while banging their way through daily chores or even singing along at the top of their lungs.
“Puking” is an uptempo headbanger that is a little less in-your-face, using the genre to convey his frustrations with lyrics going beyond a repeated swear word. The midtempo “Kitty”, led by an ear-catching bass line, is a little more complex; the punk guitars back up vocals that drip with attitude, making lyrics such as, “Where is your kitty/You look so pretty” sound a lot more interesting than they would have otherwise.
Angus Crowne offers an interesting sound with which he shares frustrations that many a listener will connect with. His uke-billy punk genre might sound like something not worth giving a try but will come off as a pleasant surprise to those who like fun music. Listeners who, like me, don’t like swear words, be warned: There are a couple throughout the album, and skip “Lullaby Blues”. More information about the artist and his projects are available on both his official website and his Facebook page.