ALBUM REVIEW: Grumpster – Grumpster

Contrary to popular belief, Pop Punk and Emo are far from dead and buried. There are tons of true-school cool pocket scenes all over with great bands and fans supporting the hell out of them. One of best bands that have come from the underground recently to earn props is Grumpster from Oakland. Always a legendary place for Punk (thank you East Bay scene, 924 Gilman Street), but has had more than a few killer bands of late too. 

After getting on my radar the last few years with their 2022 release Fever Dream, and one amazing local show with The Worriers, Grumpster are back with the decidedly grown-up self-titled album (Pure Noise Records). Full of fresh riffs, catchy hooks, killer drumming, great vocals, and self-deprecating lyrics, this is poised to be your favorite release in 2024.   

“Wither” kicks things off with a breezy slice of pop-punk goodness. Right in line with past funster Grumpster jams, “Wither” is a more refined rocking song to blow your blues away. Vibrant guitars and a fantastic melody from Donnie Walsh also factor in the mix! This band has a way of making you feel good about being depressed, and somehow fighting your way through it. 

“Just For Fun” is the first sign of some new directions for the band to explore. New co-lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Hernandez is a revelation and contrasts with Walsh’s great sad/sunny/strong delivery to create a new spacious sound for the band. This is really exciting to hear, and recalls other great two-singer punk acts such as Joyce Manor, Co-Defendants, and Tigers Jaw! 

On “SSBpt2” Grumpster is channeling Green Day channeling NOFX, channeling Bad Religion, channeling Ramones love of 1950s rockers. It’s the shortest song on the album, but maybe the earworm-iest one too! Set against a backdrop of a heartbreaking relationship turn, there is a happy sound musically that is infectious. This one ought to be played live for every tour, from now on. 

“Sun” sees Walsh and Hernandez trading vocals to great effect. If this is where the band is heading; yes, more please! This level-up of songcraft across Grumpster, especially on tracks such as the single “Bern Needs His Meds” sees them in their 24-Hour Revenge Therapy-era. Which makes sense considering they opened for the Bay Area icons Jawbreaker a few years ago. The sad lyrics, buoyant melody, and incredible vocals (lead and backing) will give you chills. 

“Bottom Feeder” is a bit of an outlier in the album with a little more moody Alt-Rock to go along with lyrics that kick you in the feels. Both Lalo Gonzalez Deetz and Hernandez load up on the guitar layers here, and the rest of the album, with ever-present subversive guitar leads that would make Rivers Cuomo or J Mascis smile. “Grey” is a mid-tempo downer song, navel-gazing and reflective. Flipping the script, “Thorns” is a serotonin-boosting banger – fast, up-tempo and even soulful in places. 

“Bran’s Motto” is gonna make you wanna hug your BBFs or your cat friends, hard. Few bands can express this level of anxiety about love, relationships, friendships, and more, the hopes and fears crushing you at once as well. Without trying to be poetic, Grumpster winds up being plain-spoken and living their truth, however tough to face. You might tear up at the chorus of “I know that you think that I’m annoying” if you loved someone a little more than they loved you.    

Flipping the last song’s sentiments totally on its ear – “Bone$” is about finding a comfort zone with someone. Terrific use of cascading vocals too! The final track “Waste” likely didn’t set out to be an anthemic closer, but that is what it became. You can almost imagine a crowd swaying to this nautical beat, ugly crying through the chorus of “Wasting my time…” arms waving “hip-hop” style, while the lyrics that sing the story of your life roll by. Donnie’s trademark trumpet and the backing vocals again rule. 

We came for all the feels and the jams and a new era of the band, Grumpster. We didn’t know it was gonna be all bops and bangers from beginning to end. 

Buy the album here:

9 / 10