Samiam – Trips

written by: November 28, 2011
Release Date: September 6th, 2011


As a genre, pop-punk is often associated with youthful exuberance and sophomoric lyricism. At least that’s what the genre’s breakthrough artists would lead people to believe. However, Berkeley, Calif.’s Samiam has been creating energetic and informed punk anthems for more than 20 years.

Formed in 1988, Samiam has faced numerous line-up changes—as well as label changes—during its lengthy existence. After releasing five full-length records in seven years, the group slowed its pace significantly after the release of Astray in 2000. Astray was not only the band’s best album to date, it was a swan song as the group planned to break up after finishing touring in support of the album. That break-up didn’t stick as the group returned in 2006 with Whatever’s Got You Down, an album that boasted strong songwriting but rather troublesome production. Five years later, and with only two original members left—vocalist Jason Beebout and guitarist Sergie Loobkoff—Samiam has released its eighth full-length, Trips.

Trips opens with the sub-two-minute “80 West,” a track that proves Samiam hasn’t lost an iota of energy, even though its members have crossed the threshold into middle age. The guitars of Loobkoff and Sean Kennerly bounce off one another with riffs that are as powerful as anything in Samiam’s discography. In its short duration, “80 West” sets the tone for Trips, and succinctly sums up Samiam’s strengths.

From there Trips displays how diverse and mature Samiam is at this point in its career. While no one would mistake Samiam for anything other than a punk band with a penchant for huge hooks, when the group slows down and allows songs to breathe it is often more successful than when it is going full speed ahead. “El Dorado” builds slowly at its onset, and it is deliberate with each movement over the course of its five minutes. The guitars wrap around one another as the rhythm section propels the song forward; all the while, Beebout constructs melodies that would make Blink-182 envious.

The album’s end only further showcases Samiam’s depth with tracks such as “Magellan” and album closer “Happy For You.” The former is a bouncy, hardly punk number that makes Beebout’s constant repetition of, “I’m always stumblin’, stumblin’,” infectious instead of annoying, while the latter is a slow burning piece of introspection. In the hands of a lesser act, “Happy For You” could seem trite and heartless, but Samiam takes what could be an overwrought ballad and turns it into a truly heartfelt album closer.

Trips doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to do so: it merely showcases why Samiam has been around for so long. The band puts a focus on quality songwriting that, in itself, finds maturity. It didn’t need to add synthesizers a la Blink-182 to try and prove it had grown up. Samiam just wrote good songs instead.

Samiam – Trips tracklist:

  1. “80 West”
  2. “Clean up the Mess”
  3. “September Holiday”
  4. “Demon”
  5. “Crew of One”
  6. “Over Now”
  7. “How Would You Know”
  8. “Nightly”
  9. “Free Time”
  10. “El Dorado”
  11. “Magellan”
  12. “Did You Change”
  13. “Happy for You”