Upper Downer Lives Up to Name By Creating Happy Sounding, But Somewhat Depressing Album No Refills Left
4.6 out of 5 stars
Upper Downer is a skate punk band out of Los Angeles that has been around since 2017 writing songs and playing shows which led to the creation of the 10-song debut album No Refills Left which was released on September 30th, 2022.
The four-piece band consists of lead singer and guitarist Chris Kehoe, drummer Kevin Froines, guitarist and backing vocalist Jesse Contreras, and bassist Bert Gragg.
This album is full of the uptempo “skate” style of punk, but it is definitely infused with something more melancholic. In fact, I was hearing some Bad Religion mixed with a bit of Dramarama when I first listened to the album which I thought was a rad combination.
Come to find out they list bands like Blink-182 and The Cure as their influences which makes a lot of sense when you hear the end result. The songs are never totally happy even though they may have a poppy or catchy melody, and the vocals are definitely rougher sounding to give it bit of melancholy.
The song starts off with “Disarm The Police” starts with a western-style drum beat on the snare and intricate guitar work that bursts into a chorus that talks about trying to push consequences on the cops that break the laws they are entrusted to enforce.
This song definitely ties in with the later song, “If I Was a Cop” where Kehoe sings about never catching his man and letting them run away as fast as they can. Definitely
I will say that while the whole album does have a “left lean” politically (as most musicians not associated with Country/Western do), there is nothing pushy about it nor does the band try to shift blame away from themselves.
Songs like “Responsibility” and “Somebody Died” essentially bring society as a whole into the spotlight and themselves with it.
It’s not an “us versus them” conversation in terms of right versus left. It’s more of a “we are screwing this up, and we should probably change our attitudes” type of conversation.
“Responsibility” is a song that you can hear “Dammit” by Blink-182 being a bit of an influence on even though they don’t sound anything alike. Technically, there are some similarities between them, but the song rocks while standing on its own merit.
The next song, “Somebody Died,” is a song about how people die every day, and as long as it isn’t us, we tend to be completely desensitized to the information.
This song seems to be a bit connected to the final song on the album “We’re Looking At You” which details how mass shootings happen so frequently, largely by Christian White Nationalist Extremists (a.k.a. Neo-NAZIs, a.k.a. White Supremacists), and brings up the idea of changing the minds of the close minded.
Probably some wishful thinking there, but the song is so damn catchy that it could easily be sung by someone who might be close-minded without really understanding what the song is about.
One of the singles off the album is the song “Devils” which compares teachers and preachers to the devils that they pretend to protest against. The basic concept being that if you are going to misuse your powers of authority, we are better off without you.
The song is a nice mix of fast bits and a mid-song breakdown which blasts into a rocking solo and back into the chorus for a very Sum-41 sounding song, in my opinion.
“No Jealousy” is a really good song over all that definitely has a bit more of an old school Face to Face type of sound complete with some gang vocals that really make it anthemic at times.
“It Must Be Nice” definitely has a lot of the same concepts and melodies of a NOFX anti-government song complete with the rapid-strumming guitar parts for the extra “punk effect.” I do love the ska breakdown in the song…albeit incredibly brief, it provides a bit of a laugh.
Overall, this is a fast-paced, but well-controlled album that has clear lineage to some of the great punk bands over the years without ripping any of them off or creating a basic sounding album.