I was contacted via email by a guy from Victory & Associates because they had seen a review I wrote here recently for the new Poison Control Center album, and they had played some gigs with them out west and hit it off well and he liked what I had written so he thought he’d see if he could get These Things Are Facts slipped into my listen-and-write-stream.
Well, my listening and music-making habits have been on a turn for the weird of late, focusing on noise and agression and heaviness, so Victory & Associates was tough to fit into my mood, but it’s not hard to see how they make sense on a bill with the mighty Poison Control Center. Both play high-energy fun electric guitar music with catchy vocals. Of the two, I’d say V & A is coming from slightly more of the wiseass collegiate power-pop angle. They’re tight in most of the places where PCC lets it all hang out.
Going from the band name and the themes of the songs, I’d say V & A is a bit of a concept band, set up to do songs about victory and everything associated with it. Nearly every track on These Things Are Facts touches on overcoming difficulties, toughing it out, getting a move on, and winning through persistence and determination. This all felt a bit sporto until it occurred to me that these guys may have just got tired of all the defeat and victim-play and slackerism that has dominated popular music for the past couple decades and decided to do something about it. That’s worthwhile.
The whoa-o pop-punk-isms of opening track “Get Tough, Get Through It” were a tough sell for me, but should appeal to anyone who was one of those kids in the ’90s who couldn’t get enough Screeching Weasel. As that’s a description that fits many of my old friends, it’s an artistic choice that deserves respect on its own terms. It’s clear at the outset that Victory & Associates have a way with a hook as they wallop you with one after another. “You Can’t Eat Prestige” measures a little lighter on the cheeze meter, and together these two songs form a vector pointing towards a more indie-friendly approach, hinted at by the gritty fuzz guitar sound, where the album heads next.
I found These Things Are Facts especially appealing through its middle section. The best aspects of pop-punk’s melodic sensibility persist, coupled with a mix of riffy guitar crunch and new-wave angularity that reminds me of Enon or this Chicago band Geronimo! that I’ve been hoping I could get to come play in Des Moines, plus an edge of Nomeansno snark in the delivery. “You Can’t Stop The Signal” resembles a classic Fugazi song. A wide range of stylistic tricks are employed on the guitars including an East Bay Ray style surf-guitar solo in the middle of the reckless “Funundrum” and Gang Of Four scrapes and harmonics in the small-town slam “Not Returning.” Musically there’s enough to like here that I can just about forgive their using the word “haterade” in a lyric.
There are other definite cheezball moments — “Mistake Museum” makes two lyrical references to David Lee Roth, for example. I’m not quite sure what the point of “Turn Down The Guitars (’11)” is beyond a series of ironic self-referential statements about the volumes of instruments in a rock band, something that’s probably more fun live than on record. But I think maybe the whole album is intended to be self-referential, as if a big part of the band’s concept is in telling the story of the band itself. If this realization eludes the listener at first, it becomes clear with the closing track “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope”, which mellows out the tempo and introduces just a dab of country flavor while full-circle referencing the opening track: “Got tough, got through this,” is shouted, as if declaring a victory in the completion of the album, but the song also declares their readiness for the next challenge they have ahead of them, the laid-back feel of this three and half minutes meant to be just a short rest and recuperation.
It’s hard to miss the inspirational tone of These Things Are Facts, it is indeed the album’s main takeaway, and Victory & Associates indisputably succeed in bringing over the energy level and memorable songs needed to communicate it. It would make a very good album for recovering from a depression, or keeping you motivated when you need it.