Wars’ outstanding first album, 2011’s Pacey From Mighty Ducks, was as funny as it was tuneful, as its giddy pop-punk songs were packed with puns and tongue-in-cheek musical allusions to everyone from Drake to Weezer.
The follow-up 1979 EP is, by contrast, less concerned with jokes than with subtly expanding the band’s sonic palette. “Wars 1979”, culled from a forthcoming full-length, clocks in at 3:47, which is almost a full minute longer than anything on the debut. Its steady bass plucking and subtle keyboard backdrop bear traces of new wave, while the halftime breakdowns add cinematic drama to singer Chris van der Laan’s admission “We should find a cheaper neighbourhood.”
The five-song outing is rounded out by tracks that are exclusive to this digital-only release, and they’re every bit as multifaceted and eclectic as the opening cut. The hard-hitting “New Steve (On Another Helicopter)” blends punk shouts with reverb-dosed harmonies, while “Mexican Sequel (Demo)” is a minute of ambient crowd sounds, spoken word, and studio noodling. Perhaps the most interesting of the batch is a wonderfully warped cover of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings”, which begins with skin-crawling feedback before morphing into a scream-filled psych-punk scorcher.
Despite the superfluous closer, a half-baked jam called “Struggle Bend (Chanting Compendium)”, 1979 is an indication that Wars may be headed in a more shadowy direction. Then again, the upcoming album will reportedly bear the goofy title Neville Say Never, so maybe not.