Banner Pilot

Heart Beats Pacific

Written by: PP on 01/12/2011 03:33:20

If someone asks you what Midwestern punk rock sounds like, you should look the person directly in the eye and hand him "Heart Beats Pacific", the third Banner Pilot album. It's the kind of genre benchmark album that doesn't try to pretend to be something it's not, and instead focuses on highlighting all the things that make Midwestern punk good. A quintessential, signature-sound album in the genre, so to say. But at the same time, it's also the first album where their songwriting is beginning to flourish out of the intimate basement punk scene and onto bigger stages. Yes, the difference to sophomore album "Collapser" is minor. Nonexistent even to the untrained ear. It's as safe as third albums come. But it's the way the Midwestern sound is executed that makes the difference.

Fans of the band will immediately notice that "Heart Beats Pacific" owns a much cleaner sound than either one of its predecessors, both vocally and in terms of the guitars. Lots of production polish and smoothness has replaced the raw delivery that was best described by words like gritty and honest, but where that's considered a negative in most instances, here it elevates the Banner Pilot sound to a new level. Because let's be honest here: they write simple three chord punk rock where the chord progression has been almost identical for three albums in a row now. Any effort to make it sound bigger, wider, and more spacious, is a welcome addition as long as it doesn't ruin what was good with the sound in the first place.

And that, my friends, it doesn't do. Instead, the no-frills punk rockers are still as simple as they come, with songwriting focusing on a less-is-more approach for the melodies, though without forgetting to make the tracks infectiously catchy. I'll be damned if you aren't singing along to "Forty Degrees" or "Spanish Reds", where the latter is the perfect example of the improved Banner Pilot. The tempo has been dropped to a mid-pace level, and the band now have enough songwriting experience to perfectly place the explosion of melody that takes place after a subtle, but effective build up. It's the kind of song that'll make the crowd go wild in a live environment.

Moreover, the production has been able to really highlight the bass guitar, which has been placed at the very forefront of the sound. It has a pleasantly ringing, reverberating sound that adds vibrant low-end melody and an extra dimension to songs that might otherwise risk sounding one-dimensional. There are several instances where the songs are actually carried by the bass-guitar, that's how prominently it is on display throughout the album. And that's a damn good thing, all too many albums tend to ignore the bass as a separate, unique instrument instead of just a backing element to create the necessary oomph.

While "Heart Beats Pacific" doesn't offer any surprises, it's a great album in the sense that you know exactly what you're getting into when you see the Banner Pilot name on the artwork. It's a benchmark for modern Midwestern punk, the kind of album that'll influence hundreds of bands down the line much in the same way as "Apathy & Exhaustion" by The Lawrence Arms did (who are probably the number one reason why Banner Pilot even exists). It might be a stretch to argue that "Heart Beats Pacific" is on the same level as that album, but let me assure you that it's the finest Midwestern punk album you'll have heard since Dillinger Four's "C I V I L W A R". It's a crowded genre where it's difficult to truly stick out, but that's one aspect Banner Pilot excels at.


Download: Forty Degrees, Spanish Reds
For the fans of: Dillinger Four, The Lawrence Arms, The Flatliners, The Respirators
Listen: Bandcamp

Release date 25.10.2011
Fat Wreck Chords

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