Friday, December 11th, 2020

Pom Pom Squad – Red With Love

Some of us are cheerleaders, some of us are so-and-so…


John S. Quinn-Puerta: Full throated punk tinged with genuine yearning is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Pom Pom Squad expertly portrays the way a huge love makes you feel, with lyrics made to be shouted back to them in a crowded basement club or across a rooftop to the person you can’t live without. Noisy guitars demonstrate the mania of feelings, dropping out unexpectedly to be replaced with strings that feel like butterflies taking off, only to join together to end the song. It’s so close to a perfect thesis on love in its combination of noise and tenderness that I can’t not play it over and over.

Jeffrey Brister: I wanted to like this! It starts so promisingly, the speedy straight ahead shuffle contrasting nicely against the slow and slippery melody, all vocal dips and cracked intervals, and then it keeps doing that. And keeps doing that, to the point where it feels twice as long. Her voice sits in that perfect roughly-edged cutesy coo sweet spot, too, perfectly suited to the music, but I just wish it was more dynamic.

Samson Savill de Jong: I straight up did not like this. Lyrics lifted out of a 15 year-old’s diary, musically completely unimaginative (throw some strings in at the end, that’ll really push the boat out), but the real reason I don’t gel with the song is I cannot stand the singer’s voice at all. Every note she sang felt like the wrong one, a prime example coming halfway through the first verse when she sings the word “high.”

John Pinto: Kicks you in the head until you go Looney Tunes-violence dopey, then winds up for another blow. Such an assault is apt — in those old cartoons, and in “Red With Love” as well, a concussion and infatuation might as well be the same ailment. Mia Berrin can really rock a vocal, and the instrumental is like if the fog (and the reverb) lifted off a Black Tambourine jam to reveal that, oh hey, all this time the fog was actually smoke and now everything is aflame. Even those strings, so often a fatal overreach, feel earned. If only the mix wasn’t so thin!

Nortey Dowuona: Swirling guitars circle Mia Berrin’s keening voice as the bass is hidden in the back behind the screaming drums, who are shaking the swirl of guitars back and forth while Mia’s voice rises to a croon, gently cradled by softly enveloping violins, then the guitars and drums kick down the door, snatch up Mia and run out, with Mia shaking them off and walking away.

Katherine St Asaph: I listen to many, many “difficult” vocals, but for whatever reason I just can’t deal with this one. I’d even prefer that other Pom Pom vocalizing over this track.

Ian Mathers: I’ve turned red with all sorts of emotions and sure you could sum some of them up as “love”, but Pom Pom Squad seem perfectly aware that (and at ease with) we’re talking about something a bit more heated, and maybe more ambiguous, than that. The darker edges of this relative romp (compared to, say, “Heavy Heavy”) work perfectly; this is the kind of punk sprint where the effort is part of the point.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: It’s the most boisterous Pom Pom Squad song yet and sort of a complete 180 after the “Cellophane” cover: a constant rush of energy, arriving as a soft mist. Mia Berrin (who, fun fact, is the daughter of 3rd Bass’s MC Serch) has a wail that’s delightfully unruly, and it’s clever to pair it with some prim strings. The only problem is that “Red With Love” comes and goes without selling its conviction; “I need you close” doesn’t ever have a sense of urgency. I blame the songwriting, the mixing, and the vocal performance in that order.

Aaron Bergstrom: A disarming blast of full-throated affection from frontwoman Mia Berrin and her squad of “quiet grrrl” upstarts, a band previously best described as “the exact opposite of ‘a disarming blast of full-throated affection.'” It’s such a 180 from last year’s Ow EP, a ragged rumination on breakups, depression, and breakup-induced depression, that on first listen I actually wondered if it was an elaborate setup for a gut-punch reveal at the end. (And if she was going to do that, of course she would release it on Valentine’s Day.) Thankfully, Berrin’s love is real this time around, and watching the self-described “scariest girl on the cheerleading team” venture into healthier emotional terrain only makes “Red With Love” that much more resonant.

Vikram Joseph: A 2:30 garage-punk track about an intense crush might sound like an exuberant prospect, but instead this is a pounding headache of a song. “Red With Love” barrels forward with a sense of rising claustrophobia — lyrics like “What you want is what I want,” reveal that the dynamic here perhaps isn’t entirely healthy, so this is almost certainly intentional. There’s more than a hint of Mitski about Mia Berrin’s vocals, although on “Red With Love” Berrin inhabits one, particularly strained end of Mitski’s range, which proves effective at conveying desperation but also a little wearing. But Pom Pom Squad’s overall sound isn’t far from the fuzzy indie-punk of Cayetana and Diet Cig, and with a slightly more fluid approach to song structure I could see myself enjoying them rather a lot.

Rachel Saywitz: Pom Pom Squad put out a wonderful, emotionally raw EP last year and continued the journey when they put out this single in February. Berrin’s delivery is frayed with both excitement and desperation, incredulous at the notion of having a love all to herself and fighting to keep it that way. Also, not to brag or anything, but Pom Pom Squad’s “Red With Love” t-shirt was the first purchase I ever made on the first Bandcamp Friday back in March, so I guess you could say I have always been “red with love” over this song? Was that a good joke? 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: When I first heard “Red With Love,” deep into the evening this February in the recesses of San Francisco’s great Bottom of the Hill, it felt massive. The rest of Pom Pom Squad’s set was heavy, beautiful-in-its-gloom emo-descended rock, but on “Red With Love,” they break through the stasis brilliantly. The song is a supernova written in miniature, with Mia Berrin’s vocal performance cresting over a flood of punk guitars to convey a world-historic degree of yearning. By the time the strings come in over the last pre-chorus it’s almost a relief, a moment of calm inside the beatific chaos, but the tug of war between punk and chamber pop that wages over the final, desperate iteration of the hook is what really elevates “Red With Love” into the upper echelon of crush punk.

Ady Thapliyal: I am psychologically primed to think of my Sleigh Bells Treats phase whenever I see pom poms, so when I heard the BIG, NOISY wall of guitar come in, I was so ready for a banger so intense that my silver tooth begins to vibrate. Instead, I got decent pop punk that’s let down by lyrics that feel more appropriate to a meditative indie rock track. “You kiss me so sweetly, it gets me high” — euphemism, in a punk track? Why listen to this when you can just revisit “crushcrushcrush”?

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One Response to “Pom Pom Squad – Red With Love”

  1. this site RUNS on giving high controversy scores to pop punk (thx for the blurbs on this!! it’s a song near and dear to my heart and i love that it has caused a fuss)

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