reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
Vancouver-based Tough Customer concoct sweet punk tunes with concrete melodies. Their debut LP, Rockgasm, took two years of recording and re-recording to complete and follows the release of a demo and a single, permanently announcing Tough Customer’s presence in Vancouver’s alt-punk scene.
Named for their “favourite enigmatic band”, Rockgasm is deliciously energetic and never shoots for polished — it’s as vivacious and sweaty-sweet as a small, packed show. From the shiny and generous trade-offs that occur in the melodies of “Who Are We Foolin’” to the classic electric guitar lines and fed-up lyrics of “Tell U Off”, Tough Customer are ever-aware of how much soul needs to be shown and when to show it.
Harmonizing is a key strength of this album — sometimes with background vocals (as on the dreamy “Emerging”), and sometimes with the overlay and passing off of three voices (notable on “No 1 Has 2 Know”). Against plucky guitars, the harmonies create a juxtapositional softness. It’s moments like these that make their genre difficult to pin down: “slam”, “slam dog”, and “slammin” are among the Bandcamp tags and this is on the button in the way tracks like “Hands” come down with a post-punk pace, or the surf-like crashing of cymbals on “Secretly The Mayor”.
At the same time, Tough Customer do a lot with space. “???” has the feeling of looking down an empty highway as you drive towards a mass of thunder clouds. Though it may be an immediate future, the darkness feels both comforting and alien. It’s a standout track for its exploration.
Though Rockgasm may have needed time to come to us as it is, it was clearly time spent mastering the levels of chaos that Tough Customer wield, while never moving into the inaccessible.
Top Tracks: “Who Are We Foolin'”; “???”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)