Switchblade Villain are a Tampa, FL four piece with a sound that is garage punk meets classic rock, and a brutally honest attitude to go with it. Led by Ray Vega on vocals and guitar, with Billy Anti (who recently played a slew of tour dates with The Queers) on lead guitar and vocals, the lineup is completed by Mike Sowers on drums and Sean Gentry on bass guitar.
Their new record ‘Chapter II’ blends a variety of old school elements with the band’s own distinctive personality to create a refreshingly real experience for fans. Their tracks feature quick-paced and repetitive verses, melodic Misfits-style vocals and heavy distortion. This sound creates an ideal backdrop for aggressively authentic, relatable lyrics.
‘Happy to be Miserable’ opens the record and showcases Switchblade Villain’s overall sound. Brash vocals are embraced and tracks are short and to the point. It is the kind of classic, catchy, skate park punk that is not overly complicated but has pit-worthy breakdowns and a genuine sense of passion.
As the record moves on to the pun-intended second track ‘Running to Know Where’, we are reminded that Switchblade Villain make essentially well-structured tracks. The old school simplicity with pleading backing vocals is a pleasant surprise amongst some of the less motivated new releases from other so-called punk bands. Switchblade Villain’s music is dramatic and under-produced, making ‘Running to Know Where’ a cool punk rock love song: Jack and Sally meets Syd and Nancy. The distortion is rough and the subject matter lyrically relatable.
The album’s halfway point is marked by the aptly titled ‘Halfway to the Bottom’. Twangy and anthemic, a different sound than the opening tracks, the rhythm includes marching snares here. There is an almost southern rock and roll grit to it, with lyrics about whiskey, weed, and cocaine.
Switchblade Villain feel true to the punk and rock genre without being clichéd. They are grungy but have range, seemingly influenced by classic rock. Their sound may be described best as sandpapered testosterone and blackened tracheas. Consistent percussive elements provide a sense of continuity and real drive, interrupted only by short, memorable spoken interludes.
‘You Only Like Me When You’re Drunk’ continues down the path of instrumentals that are rough but never get too heavy. Ray Vega and Billy Anti have vocals that are genuine, simple, and confrontational without the use of autotune or effects. A lyrically more personal track, it avoids both the political and the philosophical.
As this short record reaches the appropriately titled final song ‘Time To Go’, the album is tied together neatly. ‘Chapter II’ is fast-paced, with every track coming in at an average of around three minutes. In this respect, it could easily have been a cassette tape release 20 or 30 years ago. In both the tracks and the record as a whole there is a a sense of spatial awareness with effective use of guitar breakdowns that stand out but are not overlong or excessively complex. It may not be groundbreaking or futuristic, but Switchblade Villain are refreshingly real and offer an increasingly rare brand of punk rock.