If Olivia Rodrigo ever played the dive bar circuit, then VIAL should be first in line as her tour opener. After forming in high school, the Minneapolis trio has spent the past five years honing its brat-punk sound and getting drunk on the thrill of songwriting as a diaristic purge. VIAL write up-front songs about abortion rights, trying to make friends, and, like any upstanding band that takes pride in its Midwestern roots, soup. No matter the subject, they sound jittery and giggly, like they’re kicking notes to each other in class and trying not to let the squeak of their Dr. Martens oxfords rat them out. Though the trio’s core is punk, they soften their edges with an alt-pop streak that sweetens their revenge songs, much like Rodrigo’s “bad idea right?” or “all-american bitch.”

The band’s second album, burnout, dances its way through aggression and impishness. For every song about no longer recognizing yourself or overcoming a breakup, there’s another about stealing Honda Civics or chronic illness flare-ups. The more melodrama, the better. “ur dad” goes for a gender-swapped “Stacy’s Mom” in the punchy style of the B-52’s, while “friendship bracelet” recounts the downfall of two BFFs with the panache of Be Your Own Pet. You can hear a smile creep on bassist Taylor Kraemer’s face as she puts on her squeakiest voice for a gossipy skirmish on the same song. When guitarist KT Branscom’s pleas to go home morph into a howl on “apathy,” they sustain the note as if a full moon had risen into view. VIAL never sound more present, though, than when plotting revenge. “I hope you trip over your laces and fall on both your faces,” Branscom snarks on album opener “two-faced,” like they can already envision it happening.

The best one-two punch of VIAL’s tongue-in-cheek songwriting arrives midway through burnout. Their tradition of airing out therapy woes through song continues here, after 2019’s “Therapy” and 2021’s “Therapy Pt II.” The third installment of this series is a 40-second tape recording in which drummer Katie Fischer and Branscom act out the beginning of a session to set up “just fine,” the album’s catchiest single. That twofer starts off in jest, but nose-dives into serious venting, with the chorus of “just fine” revolving around a depressive neutrality: “I don’t want to feel good or even happy anymore/I’m quite content with fine.” Branscom’s emotional deflation spirals out of control further when they repeat the phrase “I’m fine” so many times that the words distort with the same intent to lose meaning—and, in flashes, with a similar vocal tone—as Mitski’s “Nobody.” But Fischer’s drumming and Kraemer’s springy bassline keep things jovial, almost mockingly so, with rhythms so upbeat that fans demanded a ska version with former tourmate JER. Zoomed out, “just fine” represents VIAL’s evolution from DIY house show staple to underground TikTok darlings: punk drumming, melodic guitar, and youthful gang choruses that channel Gen Z’s coming-of-age angst.

With cheeky interludes and songs that seem to fly by faster than their already short runtimes, burnout feels closer to an EP than it does a proper full-length. That’s not to say it’s empty; VIAL know the art of writing a catchy hook and the trick of delivering it at 1.5x speed—and they make good on both throughout. burnout is a smash and grab that represents their glow-up from moody teenagers learning Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” to young adults confidently leading the crowd in “PISS! PISS! PISS!” chants at their own shows. VIAL are still working through tough subjects like they did on their debut album, Loudmouth, but they’re injecting more brattiness into the mix as they barrel out of control. That dialed-up combo will get your blood pumping like you’re present for the real thing.

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VIAL: burnout