There’s always going to be a need for what Mike Krol does: punchy garage punk that feeds on distortion and utter petulance. But there has to be distinction. His first album, I Hate Jazz, was released a year after Jay Reatard’s tragic death and seemed like it could be the making of a new underground star, provided he could sculpt his sound a bit. That and sophomore album, Trust Fund felt like dress rehearsals for his third, Turkey. At 18 minutes, it was as long as Trust Fund and only two minutes longer than Jazz, but gems like ‘Neighborhood Watch’ and ‘Less Than Together’ marked Krol as someone with serious listening ROI. It’s the kind of album you can play twice in a row and still want to drop the needle for another go-around.

Turkey wasn’t a runaway success, but it did raise Krol’s profile, as did having his music featured on Steven Universe. For some of his contemporaries, this would seem like a license to plug in and plug away, especially with a label like Merge behind them. But Krol found himself at a crossroads regarding his rapidly progressing career. He took a break from music, perhaps waiting to rediscover his muse.

The cover of Power Chords, Krol’s latest and, at 33 minutes, by far longest album, depicts him in a tackily-wallpapered room sitting on a bed with salmon sheets and a shirt to match. He’s got a black eye, a bloody nose, a bloodied right hand fixed over the body of his guitar with his left hand indeed in a power chord. Fitting his retro sound, admittedly indebted to the likes of Ramones and Misfits, Krol makes music for a time when you came across a new favorite not by algorithmic manipulation but by scouring through the bins of your local record store and locking your eyes with a cover, featuring a distinct photograph of the artist, and wanting to get to know them as much as possible.

His temporary recording exile aside, Krol isn’t a hard nut to crack. His songs are fuzzy from top to bottom, with his vocals and guitar tone in such lockstep, it sounds like they’re Velcroed together. He traffics in romantic strife and self-pity, either together or separate. Sometimes he goes straight for the obvious (“You’ll love me better when I am gone”), while other times he goes for metaphors, if not exactly subtle ones. (“You shot that thing at me/ and then you watched it bleed with an arrow in my heart”). The opening title track kicks off with spoken word that lets him make a barb and save face; “I used to never understand the blues, until the night I met you/ And every day since, I’ve gotten better at guitar.”

And wouldn’t you know it, if Krol (or least his album persona) isn’t growing up; his musicianship certainly is. The title track is one of his tightest numbers yet, even before the victory lap of a guitar solo towards the end, which mixes sublimely with ooh-ing vocals before he snarls about how he’s been defied (“I’m gonna get you back/ You’ll never see it coming but when I do/ I’m gonna get you back you’ll never see it coming/ but I ain’t through”).

Either someone broke Krol’s heart recently, or he’s taking notes from a composite of past romantic traumas. How much you get out of Power Chords might depend on your feelings about love and yourself. His songs are thematically flexible enough to scratch an itch, whether you’ve been kicked to the curb after several years or ghosted for no apparent reason. His heart goes through so much abuse, from being achy and breaky (‘What’s the Rhythm’) to anachronistic injury (‘Arrow In My Heart’) that you hope he has a good supply of ACE inhibitors handy.

Like Reatard and others of his generation (Nobunny, Mikal Cronin, Jeff Rosenstock), Krol can land a hook and keep its momentum going long after others might’ve folded. But too much of Power Chords’ own momentum is let down because Krol just seems to be using the verses as a placeholder before launching into the actual payoff of the chorus. The more he feels like he’s keeping us busy, the harder it is to feel invested in his non-descript strife. The venomous ‘Little Drama’ (“If I see you on the street, then I’m gonna stare you down”) has a literally explosive opening and feels like one huge hook. The mellower ‘Blue and Pink’ lacks for the same kind of satisfaction, but a line like “Every dog on the streets seems to hate me” is the kind of specification this album needed more of.

If any of the aforementioned artists appeal to you, then, by all means, check out Power Chords, as its an agreeably disagreeable set of catchy garage punk. But what separates it from ones like Ramones or Krol’s own Turkey is that these are songs that stick with you at the moment of listening before vacating your consciousness. Its superiors are albums that succeed in their absolute shameless commitment to rattling around in your brain 24/7. You might absorb a couple of hooks and riffs and edit it down to your own abridged version, but you’ll be left wanting more than Krol’s willing to provide.