Continuing the summer’s hot streak of punk rock is Tragic Hearts’ self-titled sophomore EP. The Toronto band consists of singer Dean Richards formerly of The Artist Life on vocals, Pat Mathers of hostage life on guitar, ex-Moneen skinsman Peter Krpan, and bassist Matt Hemon of The Full Blast.
The point being, this is no one in Tragic Heart’s first time around the pop-punk circuit, and that veteran status is a leg up for their newest batch of songs. “Charity” kicks the EP off with its most energetic tune: relentless drums, dynamic changes, a few stop-starts, well-placed “Whoa-oh-whoa-oh!”s, and a buzzsaw guitar riff that calls “I Wanna Be Sedated” to mind. Richards’ brash, throaty vocals typify punk rock sneer, but he sings with more than enough confidence and variety to keep the formula from going stale.
Aside from the conventional bash of “Bad Habits”, the pop-punk of Tragic Hearts has a distinctly 90’s flavor to it. Essentially, this boils down to Tragic Hearts approaching pop-punk from “cranked-up power pop” angle, which shines through especially strong on “Ache” and ending song “Therapy”. “Ache” opens with a guitar hook that wouldn’t sound out of place in a tune by Green Day or The Explosion, and while the rest of the song is the poppiest Tragic Hearts ever gets, the music never lets up any of its graceful loudness. “Ache”, like “Charity”, is also strengthened by the band’s showmanship; they aren’t afraid of going in for big moments on choruses.
Closer “Therapy” is the lightest song musically, but the lyrics have the vulnerability and biography implied by the title. It’s an appreciated personal touch to close out the EP, and the subtle acoustic guitar and not-so-subtle harmonica give the music a bit of extra color, hinting at future directions for the young group to take. The extra instrumentation plus the slackened beat and airy guitar of the song lend some extra texture, but Richards’ vocals maintain the intensity on the rest of the EP.
Running at 4 songs in a little over 11 minutes, Tragic Hearts offers a glimpse at a band tightening their core sound while exploring more options. And Tragic Hearts has plenty of options to pursue; “Charity” sees them succeeding at firing on all cylinders, while “Therapy” shows them toying with songcraft, “Ache” features the group following their pop instincts to their fullest potential, and “Bad Habits” brings harder punk to the forefront. In addition to punk influences such as their past bands, Rancid, and Banner Pilot, there’s some heavy power pop slap-happiness core to the group that recalls Superchunk.
Sure, Tragic Hearts aren’t offering anything entirely new, but half the fun is seeing them put together old experiences in new ways. Tragic Hearts works both as a singular if brief listen, and its individual pieces are playlist friendly as well. They’re definitely worth checking out.