After a relaxing staycation and extended Labor Day weekend, it goes without saying that I wasn’t thrilled to jump immediately back into the grind. With a fair amount of reluctance, I rejoined the working class today, and as to be expected, was greeted on my morning commute with a log-jammed 8 West Freeway into Mission Valley. I wouldn’t say this very often, but I was actually happy to be stuck in the traffic! This was, in part, because it served as a minor delay of the inevitable “re-joining”, but more so because it allowed time to listen to the new Caskitt album in its entirety.
Coming right out with it, the new record titled Old Fires New Frontier showcases what I consider to be some of the best melodic punk rock available. To be clear, I do not mean that statement to be specific to the year of 2016 or any narrowed time period. Generally speaking, and crossing all eras, I am of the opinion that Caskitt has released a bon-a-fide masterpiece! The album features 11 tracks of ardent anthems that will likely be on constant rotation on all of my music playing devices from now until my auditory senses fail.
The record opens with a song titled Blinders. The band actually released a video for this song in advance of the full-length. Having already heard it, the promise of a very special album was undeniable. In fact, I enjoyed the single so much, I started blabbing about it on sandiegopunk.com some time ago. The track is an urgent call for people to WAKE UP! Our society’s hyper-focus on TV and social media propaganda has played a major role in facilitating a new epidemic of ignorance and hate. Groups of people are identified every day and put on blast for the masses to chew up and spit out. Old falsities have been further twisted, distorted, and pulled out of context to be passed off as truth. Now it only takes one simple mouse click for fools to perpetuate messaging from preposterous viral memes. Far more frightening are those who adopt the sentiments as if it is science. I’m not above reproach, so let us all be reminded…it’s not science! It’s not even “bro-science” and Caskitt puts it all into perspective in a blistering rant that clocks in at less than two minutes. With some of the coolest vocal rhythms I’ve heard in a while, the message is simple: TAKE THOSE BLINDERS OFF!!
Speaking of blinders, Caskitt has something to say about immigration. On the very next song which happens to be the title track from the album, the band takes a moment to highlight the hypocrisy of a nation that publicly wants to be regarded as having a virtuous character with high morals and principles, but when the opportunity arises to put our money where our mouth is, we fall short. There are a lot of scared and tormented humans fleeing from war zones and countries with horribly oppressive political regimes. As we tout an open arms policy that embraces diversity, our actions don’t align with said policy. Perhaps this stems from those blinders Caskitt was talking about in the first track! I won’t pretend to know the answers or solutions to any of it, but I can say that Old Fires New Frontier is another outstanding track of nine more to follow.
The potent lyricism from song to song never stops and the subject matter covers a lot of topics including unemployment, the loss of a loved one, and the inherent problems associated with failing to help others using the story of Nazi Germany and Martin Niemoller as a reference. On another song titled Short Shorts, the lyrics will have you thinking about Cheryl Araujo as portrayed by Jody Foster and that awful scene in the movie The Accused …or perhaps the more current story of Brock Turner. Much more so than your average band, Caskitt is here to make you think about this world and they do so with certain effectiveness.
Along with the crafty wordsmithing, Caskitt delivers an equally remarkable dose of musicianship on this record. While it rests firmly on the technical side of the spectrum, it does so without conjuring descriptions such as “Djent” or “progressive” or “math rock”. It’s a skate punk record with a lot of flair! For example, the song Hang my Head intros with some jagged distorted riffing before it ascends into some colorful half-arpeggiated sustained chords to usher in the first verse. The chorus brings back a more traditional open strummed power chord feel, and at the point one might expect a turn back to a parallel second verse, it doesn’t happen. Instead, the instrumentation pulls way back into a subdued feel that highlights a melody that is whistled. It’s so damn cool it gave me chills the first time I heard it! I love this sort of thing and fortunately for me, the album is loaded with dynamic elements of the like. One minute, Matt is shouting into the mic while the band is collectively bashing the snot out of their instruments. The next minute, it sounds like they are standing 6 feet away from the mic and singing ambient melodies in the background. Add in every chop, pause, stall, fill…everything but the kitchen sink…while managing to maintain a cohesive flow and… voila… you have dynamic awesomeness that is Caskitt!
If I were to make an analogy, listening to the new Caskitt record is like watching a really good professional vert skater…let’s say Tony Hawk for the sake of easy recognition. He drops in and warms things up with some impressive high percentage tricks. Next, he goes through a slight resting phase where he just carves around and shows you the beauty of his style and flow before setting up for something bigger. After a series of speed building airs, he launches into something nuts like back to back 540’s before settling back down into a few more lip tricks. With one final build, he explodes into a 900 and everyone goes wild! Caskitt does the same type of thing with their music. There are ebbs and flows with break downs, resting phases, builds and crescendos. In a genre where many bands attempt to simply ram raw energy and loudness into your earholes, Caskitt finds a way to convey the same degree of energy and intensity while implementing far more tact and diversity. For fans of early Gameface releases, Propagandhi, Satanic Surfers, and Atlas Losing Grip, the new Caskitt record is a must have!
5 out of 5 SDP Skulls!
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan