The debut recording from the full-band version of Deep State—a project that began as an outlet for songwriter Taylor Chmura's lo-fi bedroom explorations—is an irresistible punk-pop gem, a testament both to Chmura's prowess and to his impeccably assembled backing group's pedigree, not to mention engineer Jesse Mangum's meticulous studio arrangement.
It should be noted that Deep State shares members with two other local pop heavyweights, Brothers and Little Gold. Interestingly, those bands' frontmen, Ryan Moore and Christian DeRoeck, take supporting roles on Bein' Mean, handling backing guitar and bass duties, respectively. It's Chmura's songwriting, his rotten-cotton-candy choruses, that propel things forward.
Despite the punked-up Britpop vibes and sunny-day melodies, there is a distinct air of grievance throughout Bein' Mean. "It's fucked," Chmura yelps, vaguely and repeatedly, on opener "Deep State" (sidenote: I love eponymously named songs so damn much), a madhouse escapee grinning furiously alongside his band's workmanlike assault. "I think I feel more safe/ When it's payday," the singer snarls on album closer "Payday," an anthem for the underslept and underpaid, the likes of which we haven't heard since the salad days of Athens' DIY punk scene.
There's not really a bad track on the EP, though the Supergrass-y "Tittyboyz," with its obnoxious title and greased-up bass line, is the obvious single. It is nearly a perfect pop song, bummed but ready to party through the tears. "What a fool I've been," goes the sing-along refrain, but one gets the sense Deep State is ready to wake up and do it all over again. 4 out of 5.
Deep State plays the Caledonia Lounge Monday, June 9.