Santa Rosa, CA’s Decent Criminal has just concluded their first European tour after releasing their third album, Bliss. The band has been blending elements of 90s Alternative, Surf, Doo-Wop, and Pop-Punk to create a sound that defies easy categorization. As the band’s third full-length release, Bliss is without a doubt their most creative and dynamic album. This eleven track record showcases how the four-piece has evolved over the years, taking you on a tumultuous ride through angst, introspection, and moving forward. Decent Criminal has a reputation for their distinctively Californian sound with catchy hooks, heavy riffs, and impressive vocal harmonies. In Bliss, the band stays true to their roots while delivering unexpected growth that brings a burst of creative energy to the West Coast music scene.
In 2016, with their self-titled debut release, Decent Criminal produced a style that was more straight forward Pop-Punk with Surf and Garage influences. Their sound was immediately infectious with bouncy rhythms, easy to scream choruses, and crunchy guitar riffs. 2017’s Bloom brought a slightly heavier, more melodic approach to the same Surf Punk sound. In Bliss, we see a continuation of this same pattern: less of an upbeat Surf sound, more of a moody and melodic sound.
One of the most standout qualities of this album is the feeling of motion produced by dynamic changes in tempo and volume present in every song. Starting with “Nowhere,” the record draws you in by opening on a punchy note with ringing guitar riffs anchored by a poppy, upbeat rhythm. The emotive tone for the release is set by lyrics hinting at themes of broken relationships and moving on. The tempo of the second track, “Creep,” accelerates dramatically sending you into a state of imbalance with manic vocal harmonies and an urgent drumbeat. “Fade” brings a soulful respite with airy vocals and a chorus that evokes a sensation of weightlessness but promptly drops you right back into an unrelenting rhythm.
The energy ebbs slightly in “Bleached” with a stripped-down intro and lyrics offering a painful perspective on love and longing. Drumstick clicks count us in to “Here,” a brief and nearly instrumental mid-album interlude about restlessness and overcoming stagnation. “Loner” propels the motion of the record forward again with gritty guitar riffs and rapid sixteenth note snare fills. “Teeth” lands heavier with thick bass lines, slowing the momentum slightly before “Sigh” picks up again with Decent Criminal’s characteristic bouncy rhythm and rich vocal harmonies.
“Nostalgia” creates tension with heavy drum build ups that erupt with the sweetest guitar melody of the entire album. “Drown” is an adventurous track driven by crunchy guitars, punctuated with intervals of ethereal vocals, high pitched guitar notes, and the use of subtle orchestral strings. Lastly, “Alone” closes out Bliss on a softer yet still aching note which sends you spinning adrift in waves of cymbal rolls, gauzy vocals, acoustic guitar, and orchestral strings, all buoyed by a waltzing drumbeat.
Overall, Bliss is unpredictable and never boring despite the slightly mellow vibe. Decent Criminal has created a style for themselves that’s like a kaleidoscope of sound accompanied by an internal discourse of self-reflection. Their creative approach to writing for this album took me by complete surprise and it will be interesting to see how the band continues to evolve with their next release. If you’re looking for something that sounds a little more melodic than your regular Pop-Punk standbys, you’ll enjoy Decent Criminal’s Bliss. The album is available now from Wiretap Records anywhere you listen to music.