Best-of ’11:: Tongan Death Grip Chula Vista

There was a time when pop punk wasn’t a bad word and buzzsaw guitar and sing-along choruses didn’t seek refuge at Hot Topic outlets. Records were found by zine mail orders or cheap comps handed out at shows. Before bands like Simple Plan were shitting out songs for tweens, The Lillingtons, The Queers, Good Riddance and Screeching Weasel were releasing record after record that were “must own” commodities, but you had to dig to find them. I’m sure it’s glorified nostalgia, but it felt like every time I went to the record store, I found a classic.


Looking back, if those years were the zenith, the years filled with emotional, acoustic closers and sweeping strings were probably the nadir. The power chords got watered down and recycled like JJ’s draft, and with radio and video play came an onslaught of bands hoping to cash in. To paraphrase wise old Abe Simpson, the piss & vinegar that defined the sound was mostly now just piss.


Halifax’s Tongan Death Grip might not be able to save snotty, pop punk rawk but they are certainly trying. The band’s new LP, Chula Vista is 11-songs of straight ahead, propulsive anthems. There are precious few distorted notes, no string crescendos and the riffs are jointly faster and more melodic than any I’ve heard in years. I know the hill doesn’t cover much punk these days - and we risk sounding much like an indie blogger trying to review big name rap acts - but if I could find records as solid as Chula Vista, I probably wouldn’t think it was easier to just hit play on Boogadaboogadaboogada! when I wanted to hear some good punk rock.


Tongan Death Grip uses side A of the LP to drive home some of the catchiest songs I’ve heard all year; the classic sounds of “Scientology”, the harmonies and ballsy guitar solo of “Watching You” and the heavy shredding on “Something’s Wrong” might just be my favorite six minutes of music to come out of Halifax this year. If I had heard “Stupid Kids” on some random Lookout! comp, I would have bought the entire discography the next day.


The trio changes pace nicely for the B-side of the record. The last five songs feel more like a live set, fueled by beers and adrenaline. Every riffs is played as fast a humanely possible. Guitar solos? Sure, crank those up too. I don’t know the guys in this band, but god damn I’d be shocked if these songs didn’t grow form some fall down drunk nights in the jam space, but the most impressive thing about the songs is that even moving at light speed the band not only holds it together, they keep it tighter than Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous.


I realize Tongan Death Grip doesn’t need our help to get heard. Chula Vista is out on one of punk/garage rock’s most respected labels and the trio has a local following as loyal as the family dog, but something about this record seems bigger and more deserving than that. This record should be a focal point for all Halifax music fans and Tongan Death Grip should stand along side names like Plaskett and Grant as a voice for our scene.

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MP3:: Tongan Death Grip - Stupid Kid’s

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MP3:: Tongan Death Grip - Really Not Listening



Tags: Tongan Death Grip

This entry was posted on Monday, July 11th, 2011 at 8:22 am and is filed under 2011, Best-of '11, Canada, Halifax, Music, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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3 Responses to “Best-of ’11:: Tongan Death Grip Chula Vista”

TJ July 11th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Hey hey!
Awesome review. This album is pretty stellar. But I just want to point out that the track for Really Not Listening isn’t TDG. No idea what it is actually.

ack July 11th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Ha. Cut n paste killed me. The linked MP3 was fixed, but the streaming one was to another song. Fixed now. Cheers!

Herohill » Blog Archive » HPX’ 11:: Chixdiggit, Kepi Ghoulie, Tongan Death Grip & Weekend Dads October 15th, 2011 at 12:40 pm

[...] a greatest hits set. Oh, and that’s not even mentioning local acts Tongan Death Grip — a band that delivered one of the best albums of the year — and Weekend Dads — fresh off their release of a rock solid 7″ on It’s [...]

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