New Jersey-based punk rockers The Warhawks are still trying to figure out exactly who they are — and Never Felt So Good is a compelling album chronicling that ride. The album is a nine-track blitz filled with churning punk rock, catchy tunes, and a vibe that feels like the sweet spot within a vortex of The Gaslight Anthem, a fuzzed-up amp, and Cage the Elephant — all stitched together with that sweaty, garage band attitude that gets honed from lining up small venue after small venue and selling records and T-shirts the old fashioned way.
The songs are heavy on guitar, understandably, and technically sound for what you’re probably looking for if you pop in a punk record. Highlights include catchy album opener “Not a Problem” and admittedly on-the-nose break-up tune “Don’t Fuck With Me.” Though most of the album sticks fairly close to the usual punk rock beats, the Warhawks do go for just enough experimentation to show they could have range moving forward, if those are avenues they ever choose to explore. Album closer “Ten Things” feels more like a dream pop ballad than anything else, while “Your Touch” feels like a wider pop-rock stadium sing-along that is almost guaranteed to be an earworm.
The band has toured a lot the past few years, and put out an EP or two along the way toward Never Felt So Good, the group’s freshman full-length release. That familiarity and time together shines through here, and you can feel the comfort level among the bandmates, in a good way. That said, it’s clear the Warhawks are getting comfortable doing what they’re doing — but is that all they’ll ever be able to do?
That’s the question Never Felt So Good doesn’t really answer. It’s a solid punk record, with some solid tunes. Heck, a few are even pretty good. But it’s not a genre-busting breakthrough release, or the type of record destined to put the Warhawks on the map (at least not yet). It’s a pretty good record from what, for all intents and purposes, looks to be a pretty good band. It’s the type of record you hear on college radio, when they’re sampling pretty good songs from pretty good up-and-coming bands. Will this be a stepping stone toward the next big thing, or is this the best the Warhawks will be? Regardless, being here is not a bad place to be. The band has clearly proven it can get folks out to hear their particular brand of punk rock, while Never Felt So Good is more than fun enough to give a spin.
It’s a solid debut record, and if the Warhawks keep at it, could be the beginning of compelling career. If not, a few tunes like “Not a Problem” are still more than good enough for a spot on your playlist.