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  • Genre:


  • Label:

    City Slang

  • Reviewed:

    January 16, 2024

On its debut album, the Dublin-based post-punk band channels rage into communal uplift.

Since forming in 2019, Sprints have released a series of short, ferocious singles and EPs. Songwriter and guitarist Karla Chubb’s dry, comical chants often give way to blistering screeds in a manner of seconds. Anger management worked to a point: On the 2022 single “Delia Smith,” she pondered taking the edge off her eccentricities: “Who wants to be special anyway?” Still, she couldn’t help but answer the question with a defiant scream: “Me, fucking me/And I’m not ashamed.”

On its debut full-length, Letter to Self, the four-piece attempts to channel its rage into communal uplift. “Anger doesn’t mean bad,” Chubb told DIY magazine. “Anger means you’re standing up for something; anger means you’re addressing an issue; anger also means collectiveness.” Letter to Self is a bracing, frantic record designed for both thrashing mosh pits and solo meltdowns, best heard with the volume turned up loud. The racing guitars and fuzzy distortion of “Ticking” and “Heavy” transform paralyzing fear into something that can be batted away with enough headbanging.

Sprints operate like a fitness trainer giving you some tough love—sure, you could take a breather, but it won’t make you any stronger. Letter to Self was produced by Daniel Fox of Gilla Band, who have shaped the Ireland punk scene for almost a decade now. Sprints no doubt take much from Gilla Band, but their inspiration spans far and wide: “Adore Adore Adore,” Chubb’s tormenting screed on misogyny, is reminiscent of Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey. The band’s most manic songs, like the splintering Catholic-guilt noise rocker “Cathedral,” bring to mind the vicious feminist punk of Savages (whom Chubb often cites as inspiration).

The album isn’t locked into just one emotional register, though. Chubb and guitarist Colm O’Reilly play searingly bright pop melodies that pierce through the heavy buzz of stacked amps, bringing a bit of levity to their righteousness. Bassist and vocalist Sam McCann adds a wistful tone when he echoes Chubb’s lyrics, as in the grungy “Shaking Their Hands.” Even when you expect a rush of power chords, Sprints have a knack for breaking tension some other way. On “A Wreck (A Mess),” a humorous dance-punk ode to hyperactivity and social anxiety, Chubb sings with a Matt Berninger-like lilt over just a guitar strum: “Can you hear that sound?/Can you hear that silence?/Can you hear it surround?” Quiet is no reprieve: “It invites violence on me!” she yells, corralling the band for a rollicking chorus.

Occasionally Sprints spread the towering sound a little too thin, and the energy flags on “Shadow of a Doubt” and “Can’t Get Enough of It.” The upbeat tracks are more fun. “Literary Mind,” a re-recording of a 2023 single, remains a standout, capturing the jagged peaks of sapphic yearning with a flirty bassline and, of course, lovelorn screaming—“She Will” for the present decade. And on the sardonic “Up and Comer,” Chubb echos the voices of her critics—“They say she’s good for an up and comer”—before shattering through their doubts with noisy self-acceptance: “If you beat her like a drum/If you beat her like a heart/I bet she’ll fire for you still/I swear to God she’ll make a start,” she belts. Her rage builds toward a piercing climax that feels earned.

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Sprints: Letter to Self