No Sleep Records is one of the most consistent labels out there. Founded and operated by Chris Hansen, the label has developed a stellar roster of artists in its eight years of existence. From Balance and Composure to The Wonder Years, No Sleep has established itself as a premier alternative/punk record label. One of the newest additions to the label, Lee Corey Oswald, is no exception to the No Sleep All Star roster. Regards, the band’s first record on the label, is a solid indie punk affair.
Lee Corey Oswald is one of the more curious members of the No Sleep roster. Formed in the hot punk scene of Scranton, Pennsylvania, home to a number of other notorious punk groups, including Tigers Jaw and The Menzingers, the group soon moved to Portland, Oregon, where it has been based out of for five years. Perhaps it was the contrasting scenes of these respective cities, but it turns out that Lee Corey Oswald is a little too punk for Portland, but a little too indie for Scranton. What results is a unique combination of styles and influences on Regards.
Regards taps into a few different facets of the Lee Corey Oswald sound. There are forceful punk attacks, heavier melodic tracks, along with a good number of unplugged/acoustic songs. Combined with the always gruff vocals, these three qualities can be applied across the entire album, with songs that are clearly meant to tailor to one over the other. Overall, it is quite the eclectic affair, showing equal parts punk and indie, as the band looks to avoid being trapped into a single label.
The group is definitely able to entertain all of these different qualities fairly well, but there are moments on Regards where their real strengths and weaknesses are made clear. On “Scatterbrain”, the combination of the Weezer-esque riffs & song structure, along with the band’s gritty instrumental attack and vocal punch provide for a memorable track. These strengths are emulated on songs like “Living Room” and “Still Shut Out”, a few of the strong, straight indie punk offerings on the record.
While stripped down offerings like “Sarah, Work is a Four Letter Word” and “Soda and Cigarettes” are some of the stronger songs of the record, there are also tracks that don’t really click with the rest. The penultimate track, “Elements”, is sort of arena rock in nature, with its overreaching refrain of “I thought you were kidding”, but while it isn’t skip-worthy, it’s quite frankly a little boring. It feels a little too generic in comparison to the rest of the record, and fails to add anything special to it. That being said, the whole record, while enjoyable, can feel a little dry at times. Some songs just feel like they are there to move the album forward, rather than add anything new, which doesn’t really work very well given the band’s style.
As a whole, Regards gives Lee Corey Oswald a good name. Fans looking for a groundbreaking punk record probably won’t find much here, but that’s not really the point. This album is meant to introduce us to Lee Corey Oswald, an indie punk band that is well-suited for Portland as it is for Scranton. Despite its occasional staleness, Regards is pretty much what you would expect from No Sleep Records, a solid record worth a listen or two, and there is nothing wrong with that.