By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Visitors ride (too?) hard on vocalist Benjie Bollox's brief stint with the London-based U.K. Subs, a veteran punk band that outlived its purpose by 1981 yet refuses to lie down. Bollox spent about a year abroad drumming for the Subs before returning to Dallas to join forces with guitarist Steven Jones (no, not that one) and forming the Visitors. But the Visitors are so driven by Jones' astute writing and arrangements that the Bollox factoid is moot. Enjoy the band for what it is, not for its precarious ties to history. Bottom line: If you like punk, you'll like Sniffing Glue. If you don't, well, screw you.
However fast and frenetic the music, the Visitors' new album is pure comfort food for both nostalgia freaks and the conscientious. Could be its historic reverence, evident in its thick roots that reach back to 1977, the original fertile ground of music's most volatile movement. Could be the three-chord explosions that prove again that less can be better than more. Could be the record's lyrics as they scoot along a moral high ground, proof that kids (these kids, at least) still would rather rage against complacency than shrug it off.
Likely, Sniffing Glue's appeal stems from all these factors, and perhaps more, but punk rock can't save your soul or reform the government or wash society of its ills. It's merely therapy and an easy catharsis for guitar-wielding, drum-smashing quasi grown-ups. And with punk's various godfathers denouncing the movement--or cashing in on it--it's amazing that new orders of punk enthusiasts crawl out from under suburbia's rock every year, injecting the form with new enthusiasm. No single genre can claim the same perpetual resurrection.
The Visitors are a local product, but Sniffing Glue keeps one eye on old London punk and lets the other wander across the Atlantic to what came after, and the effect is...well, about what you'd expect. It's 12 songs--none much longer than two and a half minutes--of spit and adrenaline, a bit cleaner and smoother than it should be, with the agile guitar somewhat squeezed under studio slickness, but the raspy treble echoes the production of punk's earlier famous albums. "Riot" kicks it off with heaving, yell-along aplomb; "Braille" wallows in minor-key chaos; "Sunrise" is an anti-love anthem of familiar tone; the engine of "Sniffing Glue" is a well-placed staccato drum throttle. It's pogo music, smash-the-beer-bottle music. The lyrics of a few songs take the record into idealist, soap-box territory--witness "Natural Disasters": "Apathy, technology / We're too smart for ourselves / We'll disregard ecology, so that we can live more comfortably." Hardcore fans will throw their fist in the air in salute to such snarling, while the careening, hook-laden punch of the music may--or may not--keep a cynic from smirking.