February alphabet of records Steve O - February 26, 2016

Cruel Optimist

W is for Worriers

Cruel Optimist

Don Giovanni Records, 2013

Worriers' debut full length Imaginary Life came out last year and did pretty well on our bracket. If it was up to me, that wouldn’t have been their bracket debut. I would’ve given that honor to their 2013 EP Cruel Optimist. But, as you know, EPs don’t count, despite its longer play time than some records that have been on the bracket. I don’t remember how I discovered Worriers, but once I heard Cruel Optimist I was instantly hooked. I loved Lauren Denitzio’s voice, and the heartfelt, sincere lyrics meshed perfectly with the catchy pop punk. I was listening to this record all the time on bandcamp until I finally picked up the vinyl when they played in Chicago in 2014.

Cruel Optimist rotates between the high pace of songs like “Cruel Optimist” and “Best Case Scenario” and the calmer, more relaxed pace of songs like “Precarity Rules” and “Killjoy.” Both styles sounds great, the riffs are catchy and the playing solid, but what carries the songs is Denitzio’s earnest lyrics and her emotional delivery. The songs are all introspective, observing the realities of our lives with a sense of frank clarity. Denitzio’s take on anxiety and depression in the title track is particularly perceptive. “At the very least I’m out of bed / And friends believe I’m fine instead. / Bare minimum, what I need to do. / Don’t know how to push this / I used to be an optimist.” Better words when the weight of the world is on your shoulders have not be written. Then there’s the self-realization in a song like “Never Were,” both an autobiographical journey of discovery and a recognition of the world we live in. “We could give our bodies for social protest and not give a damn about the future consequences. / Speak for yourself on your own two feet. / When you’ve got kids and rent, then come and see me.” And the chorus of “Never Were” is so easy to relate to, because we all find ourselves there no matter how badly we want to make a positive impact on the world. Putting the words that all of us are thinking to a great melody, Denitzio sings “I keep reminding myself I make mistakes all the time. / Holding to higher standards, unreachable lines. / Here’s to promises we try to keep.”


Worriers are in a way a bit of a supergroup. Denitzio played in The Measure [SA] before this, Mikey Erg of every band ever plays drums, and Lou Hanman of Caves (though she didn’t play on this record) also plays with Worriers. With that kind of background, it is no surprise that Worriers is solid and consistent through all eight songs on here. Cruel Optimist has both catchy lines that you’ll want to sing along with, (the end of “Best Case Scenario” is just built for a sing-along) and thoughtful and clever lines like “I’ve spent thirty years of my life wishing things to be other than they are. / Like the blind faith of our parents, we honor deadlines like habits” (from “The Only Claude That Matters.”) There’s a lot of intelligence behind all the lyrics, which isn’t really a rare thing in punk, but the lyrics are rarely as thoughtful as this. All together it makes a fantastic package of punk rock, all in under a half hour. And as a side note, Worriers made some amazing videos for songs off Imaginary Life that you should definitely watch.