Some punk records make you worry about the future of punk rock, either because they're tired rehashes of what's gone before or they have been corrupted by the face of pop music into slick auto-tuned sickness, and some punk records get you excited for the direction things are moving, letting you know the sound is alive and well. How to Sail a Sinking Ship by JuiceheaD is one of the latter cases to the extreme.
A band well on their way to achieving local notoriety in their hometown of Chicago, their releases on Misfits records, along with a touring slot opening for the legendary band, are exposing the world to a band that's produced a carefully honed record, full of addictive hooks and infectious energy, and a liberal dose of the horror punk vibe one expects from a Misfits Records release. JuiceheaD also takes in musical cues from other, more straightforward punk influences, including Rancid, the Ramones and especially the Clash, by way of their adventurous ability to successfully crossover to diverse musical influences.
Opening with "Better Days," the band sets it up with a straightforward punk vibe, giving me a similar feeling to the first time I heard The Briggs - the awareness that some bands still have that particular punk vibe handled. And that straightforward punk vibe resurfaces over and over, like on "Death of Democracy," your classic political fist to the face of the government, and the punchy "Deadly Nightshade," with crunchy guitars and liberal musical references to both classic and melodic hardcore. Another strong punk sneer comes from "A Fire That Always Burns" and "Disenchanted Youth," tunes that makes musical reference to classic '90s punchy punk bands like Lagwagon.
Also prevalent are the Misfits influences, as is to be expected by bands on the Misfits Records imprint (honestly, every band on the label is either a Misfits clone or one heavily influenced by them, with the second type being the one that's much more fun). The lyrics are often dark, like on "Lorraine," a murder ballad about drowning a stripper, and the '50s rock and roll vibe is just as apparent on most of the songs as the punk sensibilities. This is readily apparent on one of the stronger tunes on the record, "Rick James," a tribute to the musician with absolutely zero funk added.
The band's diverse influence is further displayed by their choice of guest appearances. Cellist Melora Creager (Rasputina) delivers her distinctive sound on the gothic punk track "Black Roses," a song as heavily influenced by '50s rock and roll as it is by punk ballads, and The Punk Pipers provide bagpipes on the Celtic-punk tune “When I Fall From Grace”. Producer/Osaka Popstar frontman Cafiero also makes an appearance, supplying the "whoah whoah" backing vocals on the more straightforward Misfits-inspired rocker “Rotting from the Inside”.
If there is any criticism to be made about How to Sail a Sinking Ship, it's in the length. At 20 tracks clocking in at over an hour, it can get just a bit long. A bit of self-editing, trimming out the few tracks that sound a bit like each other would have made it a sleeker, stronger animal. Even so, it's an exciting sound, full of energy and excitement, and you can learn to live with its length.
Released October 4, 2011