Thriving off chaos and drama, the Scam (playing Sunday night at Old Rock House with Nashville Pussy and the Dwarves) is a notorious bunch in St. Louis. Playing primarily at Fubar Lounge, the quartet has been scoring opening slots for top-notch punk legends like the Meatmen, the Dwarves, and the Turbo A.C.s. Abusing punk as fashion and abandoning anything resembling the punk rock ethos, the Scam follow in the school of the drunk punk. Riding the jock of Lars Frederiksen, the band plays in the vein of mid-'90s punk bands like Rancid, U.S. Bombs, and Lower Class Brats. Trading in basements for bars, the Scam believes in putting in work and selling concert tickets instead of supporting a scene. However, focused on causing a ruckus, these beer-guzzling knuckleheads bring humor to punk, where the strictness of genre-nazis and uptight record collectors is often common.
On March 17th of this year I wrote the article, "Five bands keeping the St. Louis hardcore-punk scene alive and thrashing." The Scam, not one of the five, chose to express its displeasure at the article and me personally via YouTube. You can watch the video above. Could they be jealous for not having been covered? Maybe. Did they see the perfect opportunity to market themselves? Absolutely.
Oddly enough for a band that eagerly trashed the RFT, the Scam sent a copy of its eight-song EP to our offices. I'm game:
The EP is an even-handed blend of punk rock, ska influence, and good old rock & roll. Starting off with the fast-paced "Rock Bottom," a song that is full of snide attitude and middle-aged angst, crying out "Don't you fucking talk to me/ Don't say you can relate to me." The melodic, faux-love song "How Could I Be Wrong" plays like a ska-infused street punk anthem as the character moves from one girl to the next. On the beer-soaked "What Goes Around" the band goes through a night of pills and booze, in a grimey ode to getting fucked up. These guys clearly know the formula after living the Miller High Life and jamming U.S. Bombs records all day.
Starting off as a throwback to '50s crooner pop, "Goodbye and So Long" launches into a punk rock ballad about the trials and tribulations of ending a relationship, lamenting "What we had is fucking gone, so goodbye and so long."
The Scam's best Rancid impression, "City Of Lights" is full of introspective lyrics about taking the lonely road and leaving the world behind, marking what may be the only earnest moment on the EP. Regardless of the band's wild reputation as a bunch of numbskull ruffians, the Scam's technical proficiency and dedication to the punk rock genre shines through on this well-recorded disc. Full of palm mutes and a rip-tearing guitar solo, "Dead End Life" explodes with anger and defiance as singer James Gallagher belts out "I'll never be what you want me to be," at times sounding like Kevin Seconds. Clocking in at two minutes and 59 seconds, "The Worst" is the longest track on the EP. This burning track of self-deprecation rides the three-chord punk wave with backing gang vocals and solid percussion. Ending with a bombastic version of the Black Flag classic "Fix Me," it feels almost as if it was thrown on there for street cred.
It seems the Scam takes music seriously, leaving its punk habits a hobby. Is it a good band? Maybe. Are its members a bunch of goofballs? Absolutely. With a "FUCK YOU" sticker sealing the CD shut, after this listen, the feeling remains mutual.