Artist: Top Shelf Lickers
The Top Shelf Lickers are the complete pop punk package. Its lead guitarist shreds like NOFX's El Hefe (on "Devil Head"). Neil Turk's strong punk vocal is not unlike The Living End's -- check out 0:22 of "Off My Mind" and 2:53 of "Mr. McShakes."
TSL has a firm grasp on two things that punkers use to avoid staleness: novel instruments (here, harmonica and piano); and song parts that mess with tempo. And when TSL fucks with pace, the rhythm section not only holds it down, but also adds color to the mix.
Look no further than standout track, "No One Knows." After a mandatory guitar intro, it alternates phrases of piano-fueled doo-wop, with the straight punk "I don't know what I'd do without you"; and then double times it with ska-backed vocal harmonies, "I guess I'll have to find my way on my own." (They could have axed a chorus repeat on this nearly four-minute song; but it wouldn't be pop without repetition.)
And half a minute into "Fall For You," we get another sped-up hook that is about as punk as punk gets, and a vocal that's welcome in its Fat Mike-ness, "I wouldn't fall for you / It's not worth the heartache" -- replete with a background of "oi!"
Given most songs' subject matter, TSL could safely lay claim to the Chicago pop punk throne abdicated by Showoff. (They do go harder, as on "I Don't Remember," but its section at :53 sounds familiar to me.) Whatever path to punk perfection they pursue, be it pop or not, The Top Shelf Lickers are well on their way.
*** The author of this review, Stanley Reynolds, plays the tabla for the following band: http://youtu.be/tMS73-1kCr8