Review: Amyl & the Sniffers – Comfort to Me
National Music Reviews
Amyl & the Sniffers
Comfort to Me
Ramones x Control Top + the Party-in-the-Back Half of Courtney Barnetts Mullet
Australia is saving rock n’ roll, and you heard it here first.
Hiatus Kaiyote, King Gizz, Julia Jacklin, Babe Rainbow, Courtney Barnett, C.W. Stoneking, Pond—I could go on. The point is there’s absolute gold in every category of music down under, and Amyl & the Sniffers are the premiere garage punks to make us question, “Is it something in the water?”
Raucous and rowdy, there is something plainly likeable and charming about Aussie punks Amyl & the Sniffers. The release of Comfort to Me is no different, as they bring new blood to the scene and casually shrug off any of the notoriously daunting, second-album pressure—“Get on my level, or get out the way,” shouts frontwoman Amy Taylor. Manic energy drives open the record with their first single “Guided by Angels,” and if energy is indeed currency then this band’s Gucci campaign is starting to make a lot more sense. This song reads like a poem as Amyl & the Sniffers build and rip through tension like a raging ouroboros among big drums and big guitar, while “Don’t Fence Me In” could perhaps best sum up the band at its current stage. It’s a big ol’ “Fuck you, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do, can’t be.” The same point is echoed throughout their album alongside jagged riffs, as Amyl & the Sniffers refuse to be put into any box (see above mention of Gucci campaign).
A record born out of Australia’s particularly strict response to the pandemic, Taylor and bandmates found themselves sharing a house, devoid of any outlet for all the energy they used to boil off on stage. While the world undoubtedly changed around them, the tracks are deeply reminiscent of their pub-punk roots. If anything is different, it’s only a slightly tighter sound that lets the grime and sweat shine through even more clearly. As Elvis Costello said, “You have 20 years to write your first album and you have six months to write your second one.” This is Amyl & The Sniffers’ first “deadline album,” and one following an award no less—which has me all the more excited to hear it showing clear growth while maintaining their distinct sound and style. Comfort to Me is loud and fast, and every song sounds like it’s even more fun to play than it is to listen to. Only a touch less of that carefree, lawless sound of their first record, it feels like the words were chosen more carefully without losing energy in the exchange.
Comfort to Me is both a statement of ambition and a message to anyone that thinks this young band is only good for getting fucked up and playing crazy gigs on sticky floors. If you’re excited to watch this band grow, sit back and enjoy this record, it’s for you. If you belong to the second camp, I would invite you to listen closely—this is also for you. The record is ripe with the frustration of being stuck in the same place, whether it’s the veritable house arrest of the pandemic, or in the eyes of the media and public. The theme is continued with my personal favorite track, “Snakes.” Taylor shouts, “I submit to change! / But I know how I was raised!,” acknowledging a particularly Australian childhood characterized by snakes, a lack of concern for danger, snakes and a supermarket day job; but, also her ability to remold herself, shedding that identity like the skin of a snake and growing anew. Flat out denying any attempts to be type-cast, the boundary-proof attitude is put directly into practice with “Capital,” the group’s first go at a metal song, and a political one at that. The whole record has metal elements (see outro of “Security”), and if Amyl & the Sniffers ever decide to lean into that direction, I’ll be the first to say I will follow them wherever they go.
Fine, don’t take my word for it, but know that acclaimed rock dad Dave Grohl has Amyl and the Sniffers opening a few slots for them in 2022. I know, I don’t care about the Foo Fighters either, but you do have to respect the weight something like that carries for the promise of a band drawing their namesake from an industrial solvent. –Dylan Bueche