In case you’ve been living under a rock, pop-punk and the subcultures adjacent to it are back in a big way - in fact, a big pop-punk inspired album by Willow Smith just came out today. Whenever movements like this make a return and there has already been a successful blueprint from the past, it’s only a matter of time where cynical industry figures try to cash in on said movements to make a quick buck while it’s still in. However, one important thing about this current brand of punk that’s finding a resurgence right now - as well as neighboring sub communities such as e-girls, tumblr, mall goth, riot grrrl - is that there is a strong emphasis on community and having the cred that shows you belong. I don’t have the time to give a lecture about why that is so important, but it’s important to emphasize that people in those groups I mentioned do not like it when outsiders try to push their way into their culture and essentially gentrify their place of belonging, and while what it means to be punk has certainly changed and the rules are a lot less rigid it is still incredibly easy for people to sniff you out if they think you’re not actually one of them.
Enter TRAMP STAMPS, a trio of women that desperately want you to think they are real deal punks. The story they want you to believe is that they just met up one day, started jamming together, went on TikTok, and garnered a homegrown audience through hard work and word of mouth like many punk bands of the past have done. They grew up in the culture, they’re OG Tumblr users, and they are feminist punks to the core. In actuality, they’ve been writers in the industry for a while, backed by rapist Dr. Luke’s publishing company no less (so much for feminism, I guess). TikTok quickly figured out that something was up, as the content they posted trying to promote themselves showed that they did a terrible job covering their tracks. They didn’t know some of the most famous pop-punk songs, they didn’t know widely popular Tumblr memes, they followed random brands like Netflix, they covered Beverly Hills by Weezer. Further digging showed their industry ties, as well as prove that they weren’t always into the punk subculture, one of them had a history of racist slurs, and one of them was a trump supporter. Their way of marketing immediately failed, they were essentially ran off the internet, and the fact that “WE GOT DRUNK AND MADE AN EP” was even released is practically a miracle. Now, frankly none of this really matters. I do think it’s lame to lie about how you came up, but I think most industry plant conversations are really dumb and not nuanced, and frankly one of the best acts in modern pop-punk, Paramore, are essentially industry plants, and they’re obviously great. If the music is good, who cares if TRAMP STAMPS are some thirty something industry writers. Well, you can see where I’m going with that.
More importantly, however, is the fact that they’re not actually part of the scene informs so much of their bad musical decisions. First of all, everything is just way too cleanly produced - even for pop-punk, there is absolutely no edge to any of these instrumentals. On top of that, all of the instrumentals, melodies, and lyrical themes sound so generic and watered down. It comes across as though their only exposure to the genre is through artists like Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers, and Lemonade Mouth, which is truly embarrassing because it’s not like they’re young enough to have grown up with any of those artists. Even Gabbie Hanna’s horrific cover of “You Oughta Know” seems more genuine and bites harder than this - and that’s a fucking low bar to not jump over. Furthermore, if you already dislike the vocal style that many punk vocalists sing with, you will not be able to stand Marisa Maino’s singing. Her pronunciation of vowels is like a parody of a parody of Tom DeLonge, her vocal range is incredibly limited and sounds ear piercing when it’s in her higher register, the vocal layering is disgusting, and it sounds like there was no one in the room that knew how to use autotune and just threw it on the most disgusting preset possible with no regard to how it sounds with everything else.
But what really shows how their desperate need to be seen as real leads to bad music is their lyrics, which are often derivative and cringey. Why are you talking about bad high school hookups when you’re thirty? Why have you made your brand essentially tied to feminism yet the only feminist ideas you actually talk about boil down to how you think tampons should be free and how men leave you sexually unsatisfied? There are tons of criticisms you could make towards toxic masculinity and the patriarchy, but Tramp Stamps don’t really seem interested in any of that and would prefer to just shame men for their bad dick game, which honestly does more to perpetuate those systems they claim to have a problem with. And the fact that there are references to having sex with someone too inebriated to even be erect and only being unattracted to specifically white guys causes a lot of questions about sexual assault and fetishization of racial identities that I can’t even begin to unpack. It comes across like what some out of touch studio executive thinks zoomers are into, and it doesn’t help that there are so many attempts to be vulgar that come across as so forced (the word “fuck” might as well be a comma).
The only thing saving this from ending up on my worst list this year is that it’s an EP and not an album or mixtape. Still, I don’t think there’s anything redeeming about this. TRAMP STAMPS is such an obvious attempt to pander to what they think zoomers are like, and they it seems like the only homework they did was read a couple of buzzfeed articles. There have been artists who have made worse projects that have tried to pander way harder (I’ve even reviewed some of them), but none of them have been as bad at covering their blind spots as on “WE GOT DRUNK AND MADE AN EP”. I almost didn’t give this a goose egg because it’s so easy to hate this band that it practically feels like punching down, but there’s not a single moment of this project I enjoyed and I can’t be punching down if they’re tied to fucking Dr. Luke. “WE GOT DRUNK AND MADE AN EP” makes MGK’s recent piss poor attempt at pop-punk sound like “The Black Parade”, effectively ending the story of TRAMP STAMPS before it even started.