by Rob Mair
One of the biggest criticisms of pop-punk is that it continues to be slavishly formulaic. Salt Lake City’s Problem Daughter are an exception to the rule: while every song on Grow Up Trash is a tightly edited three-minutes or so (so far, so pop-punk), their ability to twist structures and styles makes for a rollercoaster experience that should be embraced.
Like last year’s breakouts Spanish Love Songs, the lyrical focus of Grow Up Trash is somewhat darker than most of the genre’s fare. Take the opening lyrics of ‘Pocket Sand’, the first track on the album: “I never thought I would grow up trash / A mother’s pride burnt on tinfoil.” It’s bleak and dirty stuff, buried by self-doubt and insecurity and harking back to the old Replacements’ adage of having one foot in the door and one foot in the gutter.
A cursory reading of the lyrics will make Grow Up Trash seem like a constant album of darkness – there’s certainly not much happiness to be found in the likes of ‘Jagweed’ and ‘Lancaster’, which are brutal exercises of self-flagellation. Yet, there is hope to be found among the debris, and it’s to these moments that Problem Daughter want you to cling. Ideas of self-improvement and self-reflection seep into ‘Self-Amusing Smile’, bringing levity and perspective to the moments of self-destruction and feelings of guilt.
For all the lyrical dourness, Grow Up Trash sounds fantastic, and when put alongside modern pop-punk albums by the likes of Pkew Pkew Pkew and Dead Bars, it provides a similar sense of the collective confessional. And, as if to emphasise the devil-may-care, fuck-it-all nihilism they embody, the band had the gumption to stick the best two songs right at the end of this blisteringly svelte 10-track run. ‘Tired About It’ and ‘Gin+Mio’ are just superb, the former a kick-ass call-and-response, the latter an anthemic – almost euphoric – resolution to the trials and tribulations the band explore.
It feels counter-intuitive to say that such moments feel triumphant, especially given the brooding lyrical content, but they serve to set the record up for repeated and prolonged listens. It’s testament to Problem Daughter’s songwriting and honesty that an album so dark remains so endlessly engaging and eminently replayable.