Trips could not be a more appropriate album title for Berkley punk act Samiam‘s eighth studio album in just over two decades. Especially considering how far they have journeyed from their original lineup and sound in that time. Like all adventures, there have been highs (94’s Clumsy and 00’s Astray) and undeniable lows (2006’s Whatever’s Got You Down), and, ultimately, there has to be a finish. While Trips hasn’t been declared a last album, its airtight production, catchy hooks, and poppy sheen provide the definite end to any chance of bringing back the grit, and arguably the heart, of Samiam’s early work. That being said, Trips is an enjoyable, and surprisingly melodic, listen.
The opening track “80 West” sets the stage for the rest of Trips: pounding drums, soaring choruses, and, for the most part, optimistic lyrics. It’s party punk, better fit for debauchery than angst and introspection. Samiam do it well, though, continuing on with “Clean Up the Mess”, where harmonized vocals and lines such as “This is gonna be a better year for me/may not believe it, but it’s true” force smiles and ferociously tapping toes. For better and worse, Trips is not all formulaic, two-minute dance songs, as the near-ballad “El Dorado” showcases through its extensive, narrative lyrics. Its toned down nature and longing cries of soaring “ohs” demonstrate a side of Samiam that may be worth pursuing further. Other breaks from the party, such as lethargic closer “Happy for You”, are not nearly as successful, but they at least thwart monotony.
Although vocalist Jason Beebout’s performance is dynamic and impressive throughout, Chris Dugan (producer for Green Day and Iggy Pop) ends up being the true star of Trips. Replacing fuzz and inconsistency with intricately pieced together pop-punk, Dugan and Samiam have created a solid comeback, breathing new, emphatic life into an old name.
Essential Tracks: “80 West”, “Clean Up the Mess”, and “El Dorado”