“Thank you all for coming out tonight,” said Alex Levine: frontman, bassist, and gyrator-in-chief, “It’s nice of you to join us, given it’s the end of the world and all.” A ripple of chuckles. Alex flashes a scampish smirk at guitarist brother Ryan, and the band erupt into another bounce-off-the-wall punk-charged extravaganza.
That about sums up The So So Glos’ attitude about the world. The socially-conscious Brooklyn four-piece know that things look bad. The see a world riddled with division. But where their punkish brethren would spend their time slamming politicians and wallowing in cynicism, The So So Glos take a more upbeat approach. Their songs are not angry so much as boisterous, their social commentary is delivered with a jester’s grin, and their anthem-like choruses are tailor-built for the world to sing along with.
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On December 8th their backdrop was the vault-like black-walled undercroft of London’s Sebright Arms, the penultimate date of their UK collaboration with homeless charity Shelter. After a rowdy warm-up from Jersey head-bangers The New Tusk, drummer Zach Staggers and guitarist Davey Jones kicked things off. Under a piston-pumping drumbeat and prison-riot searchlights the Levine brothers made their entrance, and smashed into a double-espresso opener of the fist-pumping ‘Dancing Industry’ and the thunderous ‘A.D.D’.
From there the band barely stopped to catch their breath, slamming into song after song like fists into a punch-bag. Mostly material from new album ‘’Kamikaze’ with a few older tracks sprinkled in like old friends. Alex Levine was the focus-point for much of the show. He howled down the microphone like a frenzied street-preacher, his leg-work was so elastic that it’d make a contortionist weep, and he swung his bass on the straps like a Gibson-branded pendulous battering ram trying to smash down the doors of Trump Tower.
But this was no one man show by any stretch. Ryan Levine took lead vocals for ‘Magazine’ whilst his brother turned his boundless energies to revelry with the audience. The band covered the short-and-sharp ‘Replay’ by Jones’ band Lost Boy? and gave Jones his two minutes of frontmandom. Even the crowd had their moments to shine, for the call-and-responses on ‘Diss Town’ or the disco-dance breakdown for the groovable Clash-like ‘We Got The Days’.
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Finally, after both a fake stage-exit and a real one, Alex Levine ditched his bass entirely and did his best Zack de la Rocha impression for their finale cover of Grandmaster Flash’s ‘New York, New York’. Skipping, scowling, passing round the mic and making a noose from the cord. A fitting end to a set that can only be described as relentless.
The So So Glos have all the hallmarks of a great punk act. They’ve more on-stage enthusiasm than diesel-guzzling dervishes and they’re steeped in grass-roots authenticity. But they’re also a party band, and they’re not afraid to embrace it. They’ve transcended that punk-crutch need to be nihilistic or discordant, and instead they revel in being loud, rousing and all-inclusive. They might not start the revolution, but they’ll make it less wretched. In the words of Alex Levine, they’re all about ‘small acts of kindness’. Be it fundraising for the homeless, or simply persuading people to dance in the face of despair.