Local Wire

Low Culture @ Meat Market Garment Factory

You know what I love? I love when an upbeat rock 'n' roll song manages to sound sad without staring at its shoes. It's hard to explain exactly how it works, how a tune packed with brisk snare pops, chugging distortion, and a plucky bass line can still toss in just enough minor chords to sound hopelessly heartbroken. It's how "Travel Song" and "31," half of the four songs on Las Cruces-based punk band Low Culture's demo-tape sound. The band sports members of Shang-A-Lang and The Marked Men, two bands that know how to tap into that bruised, unloved sensibility mastered by forerunners The Ramones, Dead Milkmen, and Groovie Ghoulies (for proof, see The Marked Men's "Fix My Brain," about as peppy as an existential crisis is allowed to sound). The band stumbles into Tempe underground spot Meat Market Garment Factory — most likely minus the tape-warble lovingly present on its Bandcamp recordings, but we'll forgive them that.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.