Life Is Murder is the latest release from Kal Marks, and if you’re going by the title alone, you’re already thinking there are plenty of dark times ahead. But while these Boston punks definitely bring the gloomy, devilishly good times, there’s far more humor and warmth to be found within these nine tracks than you’d probably expect. On Life Is Murder, Kal Marks take some pretty heavy subjects– including loneliness, depression, frustration, anxiety– and make a record that’s not only highly listenable, but also enjoyable, too.
Remember what fun is, kids? Sure, life may be murder, but even in the darkest of voids, there are still light-hearted times to be had. Tracks like “Parking Lot” represent this dual nature well, and highlight Kal Marks’ playful approach to their sound; crunchy guitars and forcible power-drumming eventually give way to gentler moments that are sludgy, yet extremely pretty. On “Peaking,” frontman Carl Shane laments his “feelings, fucking feelings” from above a slow, dripping background and sturm-und-drang rhythms.
In fact, it’s Shane’s weirdly cool, hoarse-yet-shrill vocals that are key to unlocking the charm behind such lines as “I’ve never been so happy with a bottle of lotion in my lap,” served in deadpan style on tumultuous title track “Life Is Murder.” The song is positively brimming with little lyrical gems, from the gripes of “Nothing seems fair in this world anymore” to the reassurance of “It’s okay if it’s late, you can still have your fun.” All the while, there’s a great, driving climax building, each second reaching louder, faster, grungier heights than the one before it.
The latter half of Life Is Murder seems to expand even further, continuing to push the boundaries between smooth melody and sharp noise. The riffs on “Swamp Playlist” dance, stomp, and crush their way to a thoroughly satisfying, angsty conclusion, eventually melting down into a filthy, beautiful mess.
Still, Life Is Murder ends on what feels like a happy note, or at least, what feels like the promise of happiness. “I should have known there’s a place for me,” Shane sings almost sweetly on “Out In The Deep,” before launching into the album’s bludgeoning, thundering conclusion. Truly, there’s a place for all facets of ourselves on Life Is Murder: the dark, the depressed, the light, and just about everything in between.