Run hot enough, a vacuum tube implodes, collapsing in on itself in the shithot blast of a rock and roll suicide. Once the heat kicks in, there’s no other outcome but thermal shock and shattered glass.
Since 2009, Oakland’s The Atom Age have been scattering slivers of imploded tubes all across the Bay Area. A rocket propelled ode to the unhinged power of ‘60s punk and R&B, the Age are more Sonics than Hives, and more Link Wray than Jack White. Coming to life out of the Bay’s punk scene, they’re a powder keg of a live band. But in the past, capturing this energy on record has proven a challenge. Over their last three albums, the Atom Age have documented their considerable strength for songwriting (most notably 2015’s Hot Shame), but something has almost always been lost in the equation of tracking and layering. Only now, thanks to the sympatico production work of Dave Schiffman (The Bronx, Pup, Jimmy Eat World) has the mutant fission of their live shows truly been captured on record.
Blazing by in a relentless 25 minutes, Cry Til You Die is Atom Age at their most swaggeringly explosive, their pop craftsmanship fused inseparably to every skronking sax line and Farfisa wail. Lead single “Walk Through Walls,” with its stabbed keys and bleating saxophone, is less a walk than a drunken march across boundaries—a sauced night stroll which slams headlong into one of the band’s best riffs to date. “Bad Seeds,” sailing on a snaking surf riff, recalls the sleaze of early Tarantino soundtracks. Recorded live at District Recordings in San Jose, CA, every track on Cry Til You Die is slick with sweat, and coated in a fine layer of grime. From the leading howl in opener “Love is a Numbers Game” to the final shriek of feedback on the closing title track, this is The Atom Age at the top of their craft.
As soon as the record begins, you’ll start to feel the heat. But be warned: once it builds, it doesn’t let up. By the end, there’s no other outcome. You might not implode, but you will Cry Til You Die!- - Mike Huguenor