Album Review: White Wives – Happeners

Punk music is a lot like Peter Pan: it never grows up, always clinging to its values against the onslaught of the world’s entropy. Pittsburgh punk band White Wives, comprised of members of established anarchists Anti-Flag, Dandelion Snow, The Code, and American Armada, aren’t afraid of life’s progression. With their debut record, Happeners, the five-piece actually makes the ups and downs of maturation their modus operandi.

The album’s aesthetic focuses on adult males reminiscing their wild youth. A long-held punk staple, the group approaches the notion anew: fully dissatisfied with their current lot in life. In “Spinning Wheels”, the band build a lonesome rock rumble of minimalist drums and minor effects to muse on personal inadequacies and an utter inability to fix them (“My ideas like spinning wheels/I don’t know where they end/Spent most of my life moving and trading all my friends”). The minor musical explosions between the layers of sorrow give their frustrations true weight.

“Hallelujah, I’m Mourning” is blasé lite-rock aggression at its best (or is that worst?). Lyrical content once again saves the day, with the band reflecting on the their early musical glory (“I want to sing for you/The way you sang to me/On milk crates in our garage/When I was only 15”), only to sarcastically celebrate their emotionally-stunted, direction-less existence with a bombastic chorus. Strong lyricism also helps power “Paper Chaser”, a raucous blast of old-school anti-capitalism punk.

If the album does suffer from any missteps, though as gleaming as each is, the band powers forward quickly. “Like A Runaway Slave” is drivel, overly mushy and simultaneously overloaded on testosterone, resulting in a punk power ballad that deserves to be stomped out in the pit. “Let It Go” suffers from the same structural flaws and overwrought emotional sentiments. It’s also a powerful reminder that going big musically can have huge drawbacks for a bunch of noisy hooligans.

But in the end, whether through cathartic insight or lackluster displays, the band wears the cuts and bruises of true growth with pride.

Essential Tracks: “Spinning Wheels”, “Hallelujah, I’m Mourning”


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