Strung Out

Blackhawks Over Los Angeles

Written by: PP on 08/06/2007 13:49:09

For anyone who knows anything about punk rock, California based punk rockers Strung Out should be a familiar act after having released seven studio albums accompanied with a number of EPs and a live album. Indeed, Strung Out represent the epitomy of Fat Wreck-era punk rock, both melodic and catchy, with some mainstream success but yet still street credible. But I'm guessing not everyone attended 90s punk rock 101, so a small history lesson is probably in order. Basically, throughout their fifteen year existence Strung Out has gone through a number of different styles as the punk rock landscape kept changing. During the melodic punk golden era of mid 90s they released "Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues", that to this date is regarded as one of the essential punk albums of the 90s, and later on they moved into the more metallic punk rock sound as music in general morphed towards a heavier and heavier sound. In fact, critics and fans alike named their 2004 effort "Exile In Oblivion" as a heavy metal album played the punk rock way, and to some extent this was true as well, though it still was a punk rock album above anything else. "Blackhawks Over Los Angeles", the brand new one about to arrive in stores in a few days, continues where "Exile In Oblivion" left off, but with more melody and catchy hooks with references to their mid-90s sound.

"Calling" opens the album with relaxed whistling and a chilled out banjo providing an experimental introduction, before the heavy guitars arrive in the form of a technical intro-riff, after which the song receives a three-fold speed boost. Strung Out are back with a blast, as the insanely technical metallic solo towards the end of the song displays. I have heard many fans criticizing the screeching guitars on the following title-track as annoying, but personally I think it has a curious sound to it. The first three tracks mostly have heavy metallish sound at the forefront, and it is not before "All The Nations" that you'll hear the predominantly melodic punk - even pop punk - background that the guys came from. It's slightly softer but all the more catchy, and its guitars strike me as slower versions of "Firecracker". But the true gem of the album must be "War Called Home" with its funky bass lines, fast jumpy riffs and all melodically-shouted chorus. It's the one track where old meets new, pop punk meets heavy metal in a harmony that not many bands have managed to do as well as Strung Out here.

"Letter Home", another highlight, continues in the vein of the previous track mixing shouted and melodic vocals together on top of metallic guitars - and do remember that on all Strung Out albums the metallic guitars have a distinctly bright sound to them in the spirit of melodic punk. "Orchid" is a return to the slightly darker sound of the first three tracks, but it works all the same, and its solo is killer.

So far the songs have been largely what we expected from the band aside from the two mid-90s nostalgia moments earlier on, and I think the band realized this when they decided to surprise with the poppy "Dirty Little Secret", probably the most infectiously catchy track on the album. It's hardly punk, but it's an awesome song that allows for some breathing space in the midst of all the soloing and fast drumbeats on every other song on the album.

I don't think there is much point for me to waste more space by describing the remainder of the album, because it largely follows the patterns I laid out in the previous paragraphs. You can expect tehnical guitars tuned into a bright sound, melodic singing and fast drumbeats all around the album - heavy metal in a punk rock way, what Strung Out has always stood for. Not phenomenal, but very consistent.


Download: Dirty Little Secret, War Called Home, Downtown, All The Nations
For the fans of: Pulley, A Wilhelm Scream, Bigwig, No Use For A Name, Lagwagon
Listen: Myspace

Release date 12.06.2007
Fat Wreck Chords

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