Punk perestroika: the transcontinental sounds of Good News blister through on EP ‘Same As That’

Brit Babushkas and Co. hit a dance-punk beat on 'Same as That’ - A strange but moreish combination.
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Picture of Rohit Bhattacharya
Rohit Bhattacharya
Writer, erstwhile musician, and intermittent content creator. Rohit is based in New Delhi, India. Contact: rohitbhattacharya@gmail.com or Instagram: robohop10

It’s not often you hear a British woman dishing out punk rock songs in perfect Russian, but it’s 2024, and anything’s possible. Introducing Good News, a Sheffield-based troika made up of Bethany Aylward (vocals, guitar), her husband Dan Philpott (bass), and Erin Hoggard (drums). For a punk trio, their sound is refreshingly unique in its crisp production and sonically legible components. The band combined their talents during the first Covid lockdown to create something that is arguably one of the strangest works of art to pop out of the pandemic – a New Wave-meets punk-meets-dance EP titled Same As That, which released in September 2023.

With an understated hurrah, the first song on the EP, titled “Toast,” starts off on a chorusy guitar and drum co-ord set. Bethany waxes despondent about a broken relationship, all in impeccable Russian. Her penchant for Russian rhapsodies stems from spending a year in St. Petersburg, and studying the language in school. It’s definitely a novel element in the music scene, though most listeners likely won’t be able to gauge just how good or bad her accent really is. Initially, the song is borderline upbeat, until a grating and discordant string section comes tearing in, juxtaposed by the shimmies of a tambourine. It’s like the dichotomy of a break-up—you’re glad that it’s over, but languishing about everything that was lost.

Drenched in chorus pedals and Russian profanity, “Kishki,” the second song on the EP, continues in a similarly compressed groove as the first. It features a delicious chromatically ascending bassline over which Bethany laments, “I asked you why you are so far away, You said that I’m ugly when I’m fatter.” Let’s hope it wasn’t the current husband who said that to her. This song, which was released as a single earlier, highlights the band’s sound – a mix of New Wave and punk, like a Soviet Talking Heads. There are these wonky synths that stab you out of nowhere, and strange ‘Cha Cha Chas’ in the distance. The best way to describe it is like forcing yourself to dance through the paranoia of pill number 3 on day number 5 of a never-ending rave. Scary, but fun.

When speaking in hushed tones and whispers, punk doesn’t exactly come to mind, but “Tikho,” the third song on the album, translates to “Quietly.” With a title like that, you’d think the song would be a slow ballad, but it seems to pertain more to a style of living in the background, like a gradually decomposing wallflower that doesn’t know it’s dissipating. In little over a minute, the band takes a detour through a circus freakshow of sounds and words. Bethany sings about how “Spent time congeals thick and slow, saved by the ritual of a soft-boiled egg,” and it’s anyone’s guess what she means. Perhaps it’s a reflection on the stagnation of ennui, or it may just be a red herring for listeners to try and fail to figure out. Before you know it, the disco groove has dissipated, the bass is bidding farewell, and that strangely annoying melodica motif is whining its death knell to the band shouting “Tikho.”

Good News seems to revel in growing increasingly weird as the EP progresses, which is evident on “A Line,” the fourth track on Same As That. There’s a cool interplay between Dan’s bass, which is processed through some kind of flanger, and a hard-hitting snare-and-tom pattern. The weird bit, though, is the fact that Bethany sings “a line in linear time,” over a rhythm section that’s intentionally playing an off-time groove. It’s an interesting little flavor to throw in for an overzealous listener or the casual expert. Just as you think the entire song is going to flow along on this blithe, almost mechanical pulse, a supremely dancey chorus(?) plops down the pipe with the band repeating “shitting grapevines,” while the drums elevate the cynical undertone of it all. The percussion accretion culminates in a bit of a cowbell frenzy, before the song ends with a final hit of the first riff.

The relief of when something ends exactly how you wanted it to is palpable on “Jam,” the closing track on the album, which embodies the title perfectly. It’s a total bop, a celebration of the union of the bass and the drums as the ultimate groove power couple. The vocal delivery has far more inflections in its cadence than the previous songs, shifting between English and Russian while singing about how “Hun can’t jam today, shit my head hurts” – a relatable state of being for most musicians. The song itself makes you feel like you’re strutting along a sunny sidewalk after an extra-nice payday, diamond cane, platform boots et al. Uptempo, delightfully straightforward, and bouncy to the bone, most listeners will be glad that the band ended on a high note.

In a space where artifice oftentimes masquerades as art, Good News makes no qualms about who they are and what they’re doing with Same As That. The EP’s got flair, it’s got style, it’s unsettlingly compelling, and it’s interestingly drab in equal measure. Combining Russian punk, New Wave grooves, and wonky lyricism without sounding like a bunch of avant-garde pricks isn’t exactly an easy task, but this band balances it pretty damn well. Staying consistent in their production and maintaining a foundation of Sheffield authenticity definitely helps in that regard. Now to just see if the Babushkas of the Motherland deem it worthy.

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