Dichotomy of youth, young manhood anchor Kill Vargas’s ‘Laugh It Off’

As their live sets prove, Kill Vargas’s “boy howdy, let’s get rowdy” punk aesthetic works to high success. It has proven to be a formula that they can ride to midwestern musical acclaim.

Their new album, “Laugh It Off,” begins with an expected bang through punk opener “Midnight Fools,” but surprisingly, the rest of the record subverts expectations. An exploration of growing pains, “Laugh it Off” is just as cohesive as it is reckless and youthful.

With a medley of acoustic guitars, textured synths, and the occasional string arrangement mixed into their garage-rock anthems, Kill Vargas has decided to ever-so-slightly grow up.

One thing that remains from the band’s sound is the often-incomprehensible vocal delivery by Griffin Bush, which recalls the Ramones or early Green Day. It occasionally undercuts the lyrical themes that the album provides, but it’s a trademark of their sound — topped off instrumentally in pure, adrenaline-fused angst.

Each track is textured with galloping drums by Logan Bush, grooving base lines by Austin Engler, and dual guitars by Trent Gaddie and Griffin Bush. On “Laugh It Off,” the band has traded their instrumental doses of fury for a nostalgic gaze and pop-rock fusion. Each track is peppered with a medley of memorable melodies and highly effective song structure.

“We’re just two kids falling in love — fake IDs and 20 bucks. I wonder if it’s all worth letting go,” Bush contemplates on the easygoing, sun-drenched anthem, “Don’t Remind Me.” It’s the type of laidback jam that fans may never have expected from Kill Vargas.

Album standout “Overdramatic” is a couch-locked lullaby, reminiscent of a post-Beach Boy’s sound. “Cold” stands as their best musical excursion to date, with its bashful keys and sweeping string arrangement. As these tracks prove, the album reaches high and often grasps its ambitions, but it occasionally plateaus, as with track “Control,” which doesn’t quite live up to the hype.

Overall, Kill Vargas’s sophomore album is a solid examination on early adulthood and the pressure the world exerts on us to grow older. There are no answers provided on “Laugh It Off” — just hard-to-face observations.

“Laugh It Off” highlights a fascinating dichotomy of never wanting to grow up and the helpless feeling of doing it anyways. Bush’s resistance to this inevitability seems to be tearing into him — sinking him deeper into his thematic helplessness.

Faced with this growing pain, Kill Vargas gives the listeners the best advice in a bad situation: to laugh it off.