The faint smells of exhaust fumes and nitrocellulose lacquer seep from the poorly-maintained bass amp in the garage. It’s a whiff of sincerity: not the kind packaged with the false pride taken in a hard day’s grind in your cubicle, but the sort that’s only produced on the spot with little regard for cohesion. Save for its uniform volume and muffled guitar tone, coarse like untreated concrete, there aren’t many compositional motifs to help listeners navigate Wisconsin trio sport of kings’ debut cassette tape, triumph. Each of its 10 tracks is a block stacked onto a Jenga tower of Babel — a blocky spiral that juts into the air, swaying on its small base. Instrumentals like opener “Bravery” take backroads and shortcuts to reach their destinations, eschewing familiarity for abrupt tonal/rhythmic shifts. Vocals are hacked into pop-punk bass riffs like congestion into a napkin. The occasional guitar solo sprouts from the scorched Earth, its tendrils winding into bitter knots.
In other words, triumph is raw and extemporaneous. The many structural ideas that make up the record are introduced with bursts of off-the-cuff energy, forming a string of hooks that flirt with submission before eluding the listener. Swaddled in translucent wax wrappers or scoop-shaped french fry containers, sport of kings stuff enough disposable novelty through the drive-thru window to last you well-past dinnertime.
That’s not to say the record lacks nutrition, though. It’s the sheer density of assembly-line produced lo-fi pop that the band fortifies their output with that makes it so gratifying. Certain gems emerge from the glut of riffage: the faint thread of keyboard that weaves its way into “i withdrew these strings from you”, the transition from fIREHOSE-esque jazz punk to proto-emo on “go”, and the pairing of feedback and syrupy bass that forms the bridge of “st. john’s day”. All McNuggets are good, but it’s those misfit units — small crumbs of breading or rare misshapen entities — that make the box worth consuming.