Picture this – two young boys, four years old, grow up together. Thick as thieves, their childhood in Hicksville, Nowheretown, cements their friendship and builds an undying and inseparable bond between them. Later, they form a band – a powerhouse duo that becomes an underground phenomenon, touring around the world and garnering 70+ million streams.
Sounds almost too good to be true and yet, for Cleopatrick, that’s exactly what happened. Growing up in Cobourg, Ontario, Luke Gruntz and Ian Fraser really were inseparable from a young age and, spurned on by a town where nothing happens, their hard-working attitude pushed them to become the gritty, thrashing band they are. With the release of debut album ‘BUMMER’, Cleopatrick are unleashing that small town angst and hardship on everyone, with tracks that reflect the difficulty of being in a place where everyone knows your name, heightened expectations, and the process of growth.
Opening with ‘VICTORIA PARK’, it’s clear that Cleopatrick aren’t fucking around. Thunderous drumming and chugging guitars from Fraser and Gruntz, respectively, fill the ears with precision. Gruntz sings of how locals want their attention, the same people who would ignore him in his youth. It’s only the lyrics that give away the young age of the band, with Gruntz voice sounding rugged, rich, and smoother than chocolate.
As mentioned, small town experience plays a large part in the album, with second single ‘THE DRAKE’ also touching on the subject. The story goes that at a show at The Drake Hotel, Toronto, one of Gruntz’ high school bullies turned up, putting Gruntz on edge and making him lose track of who he is. Bouncing between quieter verses and heavier choruses, there’s a real insight into just how smooth his voice is, able to sound both tender and frustrated in the same breath.
Both ‘FAMILY MAN’ and ‘GOOD GRIEF’ acted as excellent singles to bridge the gap between ‘BUMMER’ and 2018’s EP ‘The Boys’, yet somehow work even better as album tracks. Placed together early doors amongst fellow single ‘THE DRAKE’, pounding guitars meld between each track in pure symbiosis. While the chorus of ‘FAMILY MAN’ may stick a little easier than ‘GOOD GRIEF’, the latter benefits from an almost hiphop drum pattern that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Blackalicious track.
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Despite being chock full of thick riffs, ‘BUMMER’ isn’t a one trick pony. ‘WHY JULY’ is a slower tempo track that’s laced with more fuzz than the back end of a bumblebee, really living up to the garage punk sound they’re so good at creating. It’s the sort of track you can tell was played in a basement countless times, with Gruntz barely whispering the lyrics till the closing few bars where he’s aching to break over the instrumentation.
‘2008’ follows suit with the lower tempo; stripped back to just slowly strummed power chords and Gruntz’ voice, there’s a vulnerability that’s missing from the rest of the LP, meaning it acts as a palate cleanser. Nestled around heavily distorted tracks, this slow build is the lemon sorbet that reminds you just how evocative and impressive The Boys can be.
If there’s one track to recommend that shows every facet of Cleopatrick’s sound, ‘GREAT LAKES’ is a shining example, showing off Gruntz’ vocal range and ability to chop between styles, as well as one of the catchiest choruses on the record. With overdriven choruses, angst ridden lyrics, and drums battered to within an inch of their lives, it’s sure to become a staple of live sets.
Cleopatrick have been vocal in their effort to drip feed tracks, honing their sound until they could release something explosive. As debut albums go, there’s a lot to like about ‘BUMMER’ – it’s lyrically clever, there’s tonnes of fuzz and dissonance, and it’s laced with enough snark, cynicism, and personality to show their decades long friendship for what it is – brotherhood. While some tracks are a little too similar, there’s enough variation to keep listeners on their toes, throwing big shapes to every kick of distortion. If you like your music full of subtle melodies, pounding drums, and guitars that could blow your speakers, get this album on immediately. Chances are it’ll end up as one of your favourites.