When he’s not playing bass for one of the biggest bands in the world, Green Day’s Mike Dirnt lends his stylings to the Frustrators, a sporadically active side project comprising a bunch of longtime friends who have a refreshing, back-to-basics feel not unlike the side project of his Green Day bandmate Billie Joe Armstrong, Pinhead Gunpowder.
That’s where the comparisons between the two groups end, however; while Pinhead Gunpowder play a brand of fuzzy, haphazard pop-punk, the approach of the Frustrators is tighter and more calculated while maintaining a distinctly East Bay sound and attitude. It’s obvious that there’s no pressure on the band, and the songs that make up their new EP and first release in nine years, Griller, are better for it.
For the most part, the Frustrators’ take on the Northern California sound is played pretty close to the chest, proving frequent comparisons to American Steel and Jawbreaker readily evident. “Stigma” contains the same sort of melodic, mid-tempo, weathered approach we heard from those bands in their respective heydays. The group also do an admirable job at applying that aesthetic to what are essentially straight-up power-pop songs in “Prettiest Girl” and “We Need To Talk (It's Not You, It's Us).”
The lone curveball on Griller might be “West Of Texas (Part 2),” which sees the band successfully meld reverb-laced riffs in the intro and chorus with aggressive power chords. It’s an impressive marriage even if it’s not completely out of the band’s wheelhouse, and the guitar work of Terry Linehan, particularly the soloing that closes the track, deserves praise. A fun listen throughout its 11 minutes, Griller exemplifies the sort of welcome familiarity listeners generally expect from projects like this.