By Dave Duval
What would happen if the members of PS I Love You ingested an expired case of Quaaludes, got dumped by their significant others, and then sat down with a six-pack to write some melancholy pop -punk songs? I think It might sound something like the engaging debut six-song EP from Fredericton’s own Beard Springsteen. The brainchild of one JE Sheehy, bassist for local favourites The Trick, Broken English offers up melodic, lo-fi bummer jams that possess a distinctly Atlantic Canadian character. With just one man and a drum machine, the songwriting on display throughout Broken English is the real thing.
The first half of the record keeps things fast and dirty, kicking off with Frostbite, a song that boasts gigantic riffs and Sheehy’s distinctly snotty vocal work. It’s a highlight of the record, hooky, driving and wonderfully bitter. Larmes a Feu has a fantastic chorus and processed, pseudo-industrial vocals which add a real edge to the track. Staline, is a short, sweet punk tune in the vein of early-90s Lookout! bands, and closes out the EP’s first half.
The back half of Broken English slows things down a bit, but retains JE’s ear for simple, engaging songwriting. I Hate This City is so goddamn catchy that it should come with a warning label. The last two songs are, to me, the best of the bunch. The morose My War (Is Over) may be my favourite one from this release. Its title plays on the Black Flag album/song of the same name as well as John Lennon’s abysmal Happy Xmas (War is Over), cleverly echoing Broken English’s lyrical fixations with the bitter and despondent. A powerful, archetypal low-key pop-punk tune that is screaming to be played live with a full band, My War remains hugely effective in its present form on this EP.
The final track, Never Gonna Be The Same is a pitch-perfect pop song, and I would dare say among the finest of its type that the City of Stately Elms has ever produced. At 3:28, it’s the longest, most intricate and delicate piece here. Shimmering and evocative, this one’s bound to be a sing-along staple at Beard Springsteen’s live gigs. It’s also a great showcase for Sheehy’s unconventionally-attractive voice, here tinged with a perfect mix of resignation and nostalgia that’s just right for the song.
Broken English is a must-listen if you want to hear something fresh and vital from our local scene. The recording may be lo-fi, but that’s part of its charm. The musicianship and songwriting here are on point, so do yourself a favour, head to Springsteen’s Bandcamp page and have a time. You won’t regret it.