Oshkosh-based socially-conscious post-punk outfit (that’s a lot of hyphens, oof) The Present Age are set to release their latest effort, Songs From Underground, on 4/22. It’s not a conventional release day, though not much is truly conventional as of late.
This EP is iconic for the group, showcasing a new four-piece lineup and a set of seven songs completely produced by the band. And while these songs are literate and not shy to social issues by any stretch, it’s undeniable that titles like “End of the World” or lyrics like “As I become more comfortable / my cosmic rug is getting pulled” find an unnerving new sense of life in our current circumstances.
Undeniably, this album has been a long time coming – in fact, the band’s previous EP, Apology, is quickly approaching three years old. While the band has continued releasing singles intermittently, the concept of an EP or album has primarily been hearsay at best.
The big question: Was it worth the wait? The resounding answer is “yes” (with the stipulation that the band has hinted at even more music coming soon). Many of these songs have been standard of the band’s live set for the past six months or so and have an immediate familiarity; Logan Lamers’ vocals are urgent, the subject matter handsomely disheveled under raucous guitars, precise drumming, and tight basslines. The band has noted their influence from 80s acts like The Cure and REM but there’s nothing too dated about the sonic space they occupy. Certainly, hints of that leak through – but there’s a lot else going on here. Hints of skate punk, Radiohead-esque experimental alt rock, psychedelic jam bands, and even chamber rock are all mixed together.
The tone of the songs oscillates between crestfallen introspection and livid frustration; it’s not exactly a fun release in this sense, even if the instrumental veneer is punchy and in-your-face. The lament here is deeper than lost love, though. Lyrics detail topics that seem to range from police violence, political corruption, and the general disorientation of getting older. It’s rife with angst, but the angst is well-deserved.
The core of Logan Lamers (vocals/guitars) and Isaac Lamers (drums) is augmented this time around by ex-Handsome Ed members Brandon Resop (guitars/backing vocals) and Nigel Magana (bass). These new additions solidify the lineup, with Resop’s supplementary melodic guitar lines peppered throughout the release. Magana takes over for Luke Schwan on bass, and while he brings a much subtler stage presence, his grooves are foundational to the songs. It’s evident the pair elevate these songs, and out-of-the-box thinking (like prominent pedal board use on the nearly-seven-minute “The Key”) has made this the best iteration of the band to date.
Ultimately, Songs From Underground doesn’t feel like a new EP – it feels like a reintroduction to a more mature, if not more direct, version of the band. If we’ve learned anything from The Present Age at their Water City Racket Fest performance, it’s that they’re able to match blows with some of the biggest bands in Oshkosh history without walking away suffering from impostor syndrome. This is one band you’ll want to watch moving forward if you’re a fan of local original music that packs a punch.