Release Date: Jul 23, 2013
Record label: Hardly Art
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock, Hardcore Punk
Big pop acts like One Direction and Justin Bieber produce hits to fuel irrational teen crazes, but their music typically resides in the realm of optimistic, superficial fantasy - well away from the crushing emotions that actually define adolescence. Hunx and His Punx singer/songwriters Seth Bogart and Shannon Shaw, on the other hand, are masters at tossing relatable banalities into songs that sound worlds more uninhibited than the current teen-idol fare. On Street Punk, they move away from the plaintive girl group harmonies of Bogart's 2012 solo LP, Hairdresser Blues, to embrace snarling, furiously rhythmic 70s punk influences reminiscent of Shaw's other band, Shannon and the Clams.
After breaking camp with the legendary Bay Area queer youth punk unit Gravy Train!!!, singer Seth Bogart embraced the candy-coated pop of both '60s girl group sounds and campy glam with his early singles under the name Hunx & His Punx. A stellar 2011 album, Too Young to Be in Love, highlighted the catchiest moments Hunx and his collaborators could offer, and a more subdued solo album followed the next year in the form of Hairdresser Blues, credited solely to Hunx. Street Punk is a shocking change in direction for the Punx, dropping much of the happy-go-lucky melodicism and sex positive sloganeering of earlier albums in favor of angry, cathartic songs rooted in the unrelenting sounds of '80s hardcore and '90s riot grrrl bands.
To date, one of Seth Bogart's great defining works is the 2010 Hunx and His Punx compilation Gay Singles. With its cover emblazoned with the visage of his greasy crotch sheathed in a zebra-print Speedo, the comp featured songs that were heavily indebted to girl groups. Bogart, aka Hunx, sang about wanting to kiss somebody who just ate Del Taco on the mouth, hangin' on the telephone, and wanting to get inside Rocky's pants.
Seth Bogart—aka Hunx—has spent the past few years cranking out the kind of pop jams that are made for summer: Dingy enough for punk rockers, sassy enough for those with a skewed sense of humor and catchy enough for everybody. The former hairdresser took a style of music that has become rote and by-the-numbers in recent years and dropped some fucking personality on it. Hunx, along with His Punx—which through the years have included an assortment of female musicians, whose backing vocals were the backbone of his pop ditties—reveled in girl-group sweetness just like the Ramones and Blondie did in the late-’70s.
Hunx and His Punx consists of Seth Bogart and a rotating cast of musicians (usually women). Their 2010 debut and 2011 follow up, Gay Singles and Too Young to Be in Love respectively, trafficked in a mix of scuzzy garage punk and bubblegum pop, with songs that sounded like Buddy Holly being backed by the Gories or the Oblivians, and sung from a gay man’s perspective. Song-wise Too Young To Be In Love was a huge leap forward in Bogart’s songwriting ability and really began to showcase his melodic sensibilities.
There has to be something in the San Francisco water that drives artists to produce. Bay area musicians such as Ty Segall, Sonny Smith and now Seth Bogart have released a staggering amount of material over the last few years, all of it good to great. Street Punk (Seth Bogart's follow-up to last year's solo outing, Hairdresser Blues) finds the queer garage troubadour reuniting with the Punx (specifically Shannon and the Clams' Shannon Shaw) for a collection of "hateful punk songs.
Punk’s nihilism — if indeed punk was nihilistic — was premised on a Frankenstein phoenix arising from the ashes of the late-capitalist apocalypse, smeared in those ashes themselves, a self-reinvention that is re-embodied on Hunx and His Punx’ latest, Street Punk. Where Hunx’ 2012 solo effort Hairdresser Blues mellowed things and splooged in the direction of emotional heft, Street Punk delivers an aggro barrage eschewing the pop-punk, doo-wop, and girl group influences we’ve become over-comfortable with. Comfortable is for part-time punks! But does this personality crisis bring heartache and frustration? The tracks that work best are those that wouldn’t’ve been out of place on 2010’s Gay Singles or sister band Shannon and the Clams’ Sleep Talk — pieces where kitsch and genuine feeling meet in a way that shouldn’t even be possible.
Of all the novelty acts and sub-genre minutia to spawn from the garage rock revival, Hunx and his Punx — the distillation of the very being of Seth Bogart (a.k.a. Hunx) — is one of the most intriguing. The group’s debut full-length, Too Young To Be in Love, was assembled from the spare parts and rehashed progressions of golden-era girl groups and early rock, produced by Ivan Julian of Richard Hell and the Voivods, and had enough homoeroticism and trashy fun to have been the missing soundtrack to The Birdcage, had it been directed by Tim and Eric.
I think Seth Bogart has been getting laid. In a 2011 interview with Nardwuar, Hunx And His Punx guitarist Michelle Santamaria (who left the band soon after) said of Bogart, “He’s killed horniness in me…I don’t believe in being horny anymore.” Bogart, it seemed, was horny enough for everyone. He is (or was) the Piccasso of insatiable desire; our generation’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” funnelled into human form and coddled in a mesh muscle tee.