by Jacob Sprecher
For anyone that’s played in the same band for an extended period of time, there’s a tendency (when that band finally dissolves) to begin a new project with a select member or members of that same initial group. This inevitably proves to be eerily similar to on-again off-again screwing near the tail end of a relationship. But sometimes it works, and the next go-round turns out to be noteworthy. Such would be the case for Terry Malts, a San Franciscan three-piece of post-punk pop that rose from the “grad school” ashes of Magic Bullets.
“Magic Bullets was a sham,” jokes frontman Phil Benson. “We pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes.”
Terry Malts is comprised of Benson, Corey Cunningham and Nathan Sweatt. The rise of the Malts—which began almost a year ago—has seen Benson add bass to his lead vocal duties, Sweatt switch from four-string to kit, with Cunningham keeping behind the axe. It’s Benson’s first tour on bass since the Cosmos, and Sweatt’s first on drums since the short-lived Drowning Hearts. But, musically speaking, the process of switching mindsets from a multi-tentacle, arty pop group such as the Bullets, to a punk-driven power trio has been refreshingly simple from top to bottom.
“We feel less pressure—we’re not trying to be as eloquent,” tells Benson, though he admits with a laugh that, “the circle jerks are less interesting.”
Terry Malts have captured flavors of late-‘70s and early ‘80s post-punk, while at the same time deriving straight-ahead pop from the likes of the Ramones. Released on February 21st, their debut LP, Killing Time, speaks loud and clear to the above influences. Not surprisingly, the album was noticed in a hurry—Terry Malts is already signed to Oakland-based label Slumberland, who was “more than enthused” to put it out.
Killing Time is 14 tracks and 35 minutes of a frantic good time. Recorded at their San Francisco rehearsal space (“a loose term to describe what we did”), the LP thrives upon happily simplistic melodies and themes behind a backdrop of tinny guitar licks and fuzz. “The general idea [was] to write anything and put a muff pedal on it. It all sounds the same after that,” says Benson.
From the mountain-high hooks of “Tumble Down” to the singsong repetition of “No Good For You” and “No Sir, I’m Not A Christian,” Killing Time is a much warmer record than its winter release date conveys. It’s ripe for sweat-soaked, weeknight after-parties that roll into the wee hours, with a contagion level that only the poppier side of punk can boast.
Currently out on a short jaunt up and down California, Terry Malts has a national tour in the works for April, and neither Benson nor Cunningham see any reason as to why the group will go the way of the dinosaur like so many side projects before.
That is, so long as no one else decides to go to grad school.