Solid Freex swerve wildly on "Plastic Mystery"
The Madison punk trio celebrates its second album on March 16 at Mickey's Tavern.
Madison father-and-son punk trio Solid Freex has careened its way over a lot of territory since forming in 2016, writing several dozen songs and showing a wealth of musical flexibility in the process. Guitarist Josh Coombs-Broekema, bassist Evan Coombs-Broekema, and drummer Steve Coombs captured plenty of their affinity for hardcore and menacing shout-along choruses on the band's debut album, 2018's Peeled Guest, but worked in shades of noise-rock and hinted at the stranger corners of post-punk, with elements like the staggering rhythms of "Set A Fire" and the vertiginous bass hook of "Rabbit Die From."
If Josh and Evan have soaked up some of the eccentricity that drives their dad's longtime solo project Trin Tran, they also bring plenty of their own creative fury and cracked humor to the band. The writing comes fast enough that when Solid Freex played shows immediately leading up to and following Peeled Guest's release, they were already playing plenty of material that didn't come from the record and didn't entirely sound like it either. When they celebrate the cassette release of their second album, Plastic Mystery, with a show on Saturday, March 16 at Mickey's Tavern, they'll mostly focus on yet another new batch of songs.
"We like to keep the scalpel sharp and plenty hits the cutting room floor," Steve Coombs says. "We are only playing five of the songs from Plastic Mystery at the tape release show. I still like the other songs, but we just think the newer ones we've written are better.”
Whatever comes after it, Plastic Mystery keeps looking for different ways to stretch and distort the band's blistering punk foundation. The three members have always shared vocal duties, in everything from your typical punk-chorus shout-alongs to demented croons and cackles. That part of Solid Freex's sound expands considerably here. "Fite!" has the family band engaged in a mangled but artfully arranged exchange of screams, and they experiment with proper three-part harmonies over the jangly waltz of "Grave Mistakes," the almost-surf-rock of "End Of The Summer" and the itchy psych of "You're Here." The latter three songs are as straight-up melodic as the band has gotten yet, but somehow only reveal more of the squirming weirdness at its heart. The band switches between twitchy dissonance and a burly chorus on "Poor Taste," which tells the story of a social interaction gone wrong.
"We play a lot of different genres in practice," Steve Coombs says. "Josh or Evan will start playing Buzzcocks, Beatles, Killing Joke, Negative Approach, early Adam Ant, the Everly Brothers at practice—there was a time when we were singing the Everly Brothers kind of non-stop. We took a canoe trip 29 miles down the Wisconsin River and Josh and Evan were basically singing those Everly Brothers harmonies the whole way. They were eventually dive-bombed by an eagle. I maybe would have said we leaned slightly more psych than surf rock, but I love surf and Santo And Johnny and The Shadows as much as the next guy."
The younger two members (Evan is in his late teens and Josh is in his early 20s) are a bit more cryptic about the band's songwriting process and sonic direction. "Let’s just say when you’ve got a bassist who knows Grandma’s Clasp (technique derived from ancient double bass circa 1670's) [editor's note: not a thing, I think?], the songs flow like quicksilver," Josh wrote in an email exchange earlier this week. Evan wrote that "#mydad is always spittin' tunes into his handheld during the work week. Pop that thing in the PA system and we're jammin' fresh rock music straight from the dome." But even comments like this tell you something at the rich, playfully insular approach Solid Freex is bringing to punk.
Steve says that "Fite!"—a scathing two-minute hardcore track that finds room for Josh's smartly scrawled guitar lines and a pumping, suspenseful bridge—best represents the direction the band is heading in. As for picking one track that sums up Plastic Mystery, well, the record is too all-over the place for that, and that's one of its strengths. Give "Fite!" a listen here, and just accept that Solid Freex might sound very different next time you check in.