If punk-rock is a response to anything, it’s pop—music, culture, that which is mass produced and consumed—which is why their combination requires such a delicate balance. With State Lines, singer and guitarist Jade Lilitri successfully maneuvered the two simultaneously; the band’s brand of fuzz and bounce, bite and fun, found its stride just before it fizzled out. Jade does more than maintain balance under a new name, Oso Oso seems to extend his capacity in both domains.
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Indeed, the songs that make up his first full-length Real Stories of True People Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters feel equal parts coarse and tangled and inescapable. “Wet Grass,” which begins with thudding toms and guitars that chirp like jungle birds, builds into a chorus thickened with muscular chords and layers of vocals. Jade’s melody on tracks like this and “This Must Be a Place” seem instantly hummable—the sort that coax the listener to swim through the thrumming chords and ride the adjacent harmony, if not sing alongside him. Even his bold, buzzing voice seems to express the album’s duality—it cuts through the italicized guitars on “Another Night,” surfs the wake of “This Must Be an Entrance,” hops on “Where You’ve Been Hiding’s” pins and needles, and maintains a confident melody throughout. Thankfully, Real Stories never becomes too pop or too punk, and never stumbles into pop-punk’s shiftless landscape. Instead, Oso Oso sets pop against punk, lets them tear into each other until the result is as ragged as it is anthemic.