REVIEW: Amyl and the Sniffers – Comfort To Me

Calling your band Amyl and the Sniffers is a bold move. It’s a name that makes no concession to the casual listener and almost dares them to look beyond the name, if they can. It’s also a fitting name for the band. That same unwillingness to compromise and insistence to be taken on their own terms shines through in the music.
Comfort to Me is their sophomore record, and it sees the band doubling down on their sound. This is raucous punk rock, with elements of hardcore, pub rock, and garage rock thrown in for good measure. Drums pound and bounce, the bass rumbles along furiously, the guitars are frenetic, and Amy Taylor’s lyrics are delivered in a style that’s part military drill sergeant, part evangelical preacher. There’s no thrust for crossover appeal by softening the edges of the music or lyrics – this is after all a record containing a song called ‘Don’t need a cunt like you to love me’ – but that doesn’t mean that the sound is limited or repetitive. There are enough shifts in tempo, style, and lyrical focus to demonstrate that this is a band at the top of their game.

Indeed, one of the record’s most powerful moments comes when its otherwise manic pace slows down on “Knifey”. On a surface level a paean to the singer’s trusty knife, it’s a bitter, rallying sketch of the realities of life for women, and the dangers they face just going about their daily business. The repeated refrain of “All I ever wanted….” underlines how small a demand the right not to be exposed to violence is.

Whilst in some ways a political record, it is very much the personal as political. ‘Freaks to the Front’ imagines the world as a punk gig, the titular chorus calling the “freaks to the front” and arguing that “everybody deserves to have fun”. The songs are saved from being overly didactic and preachy by the self-deprecating humour underpinning everything. Taylor rounds off a long list of her personal defects on the song with the claim that “I’m fucking ugly”. The song ‘Security’ likewise marries astute observations about society’s treatment of difference to a chorus imploring a security guard to “let me in your hard heart, let me in your pub”.

From start to finish, the band manage the difficult balancing act of writing songs that have something to say whilst also being a lot of fun. This is music that engages emotionally and intellectually – a controlled riot. The record further establishes them as one of the great contemporary punk bands. I’m gutted that I missed out on getting tickets to see their tour in November. I suspect that these songs will sound even better live. If you made the same mistake as me, at least make sure that you acquaint yourself with this brilliant album. It’s one that will be getting a lot of repeat plays on my stereo.

Words by Will Collins

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