A major factor in what elevates a band is drawing from a wide pool of influences, but not using that knowledge in an obvious way. It’s the energy- it’s the feeling that counts. And on Kissing Is a Crime’s debut self-titled album, the band pulls from various genres to create songs that are both fresh yet familiar. Much of this can be attributed to founder and lead singer/ guitarist, Matt Molnar, who played in DIY and punk bands for years. But, he was looking for a way to move beyond the limits of that sound while still drawing on the force it exudes. Enter in seasoned singer/bassist and confidant Beatrice Rothbaum. She shared not only his love of punk but of vintage guitar tones as well. The two songwriters bonded over the jangling of ‘60s guitars. After filling out the rest of the band (guitarist Larry Sass-Ainsworth and drummer Alex Feldman), Kissing Is A Crime was set to record their debut and introduce their lo-fi guitar pop to the masses.

The album opens with ‘Nervous Condition’ and it’s the perfect introduction to the band. The song has solid drums paired with a rolling bass line, the guitars play delicately off one another during the verses, and the slight dissonant harmonies of the repeated opening phrase, “Nervous comedowns” draws you in. Then the chorus blossoms. The rawness of the vocals and chugging of the instruments highlights the DIY influences form the band’s youth, the instrumental bridge sees the band get a riled, sonically encapsulating anxious tremors. It has the sound of being played in a well-known venue with the knowledge that you’ll wind up drinking cheap beer in someone’s garage just a few hours later.

Then there’s ‘Noise at Night’, sung by Rothbaum using her breathy vocals to contrast with the slinky-yet-sturdy bass runs. Add in the creeping guitars and stumbling drums and you have a recipe fit for a scary night alone. This is another track where the lyrics and composition fit together so perfectly. It’s an appreciation of form and function- two often neglected aspects in pop music. It’s this kind of purposefulness in their art that shows Kissing Is A Crime has risen above their DIY roots.

The band also knows how to have a little snarky fun. Case and point is the track, ‘Kids’, on which Molnar sings, “Kids/ Why you goin’ so slow on a Saturday?/ Don’t you have plans to run away?” There is also talk about skateboarding, graffiti, and being “out with friends on ecstasy to dance the night away.” On the chorus they pair these vocals with distorted power chords played over a slightly sluggish beat, whereas on the verses, the drums get syncopated. The bass and guitars all play off one another, trading off licks from the same riff phrase. There’s a punch to the jangling guitars that is spritely yet rebellious; it’s the kid who wants to rebel, but only after they finish one more chapter of their book.

A highlight of the album is how well manicured the lyrics and compositions are while still feeling free and raw like the punk years of old. But, while the energy is focused and subtleties shine through, there is an overarching lack of dynamics. While you do have high peaks in tracks like, ‘Permanent Damages’ and ‘You Would Never Understand’, there are no valleys. You have tracks like ‘Sheila’s Gone’ and ‘You Make Me Shatter’ that are a little more relaxed in volume, but it is only a dip. With how much focus and energy they put into these tracks, it would have been nice to have a little more ebb and flow. The ability is there; the compositions prove that. The tunnel of energy created by this would have propelled this album even further.

But, when all is said and done, Kissing Is A Crime’s self-titled debut is a solid feat. It marries eternal punk attitude with a lo-fi and pop conscious aesthetic, and it makes sense that 11 songs this solid are a long time coming. Kissing Is A Crime was first conceived in 2012 and wasn’t fully formed until 2016. As Molnar stated, “Basically, I was trying to do this band during every band that I've been in. This is the band I’ve been trying to do for a long time.” And with the partnership he has formed with Rothbaum and his other current bandmates, you can expect this debut to truly be a new beginning of something special.