Punk music has evolved so much over the years. Various genres have been fused and technicality has reached new heights. Current bands are constantly pushing the limits of what can be done on a basic fretboard or drum kit while lyrical content continues to delve much deeper than the humble roots of sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Despite the never-ending progression, every so often, a band comes along as a material reminder of an earlier time. Local San Diego band Midnight Track is a good example of this.
On their latest release titled Don’t Be Proud of Me, the three-piece punk rock outfit channels sounds and sentiments reminiscent of the 80’s era of punk music when bands like The Adolescents and Agent Orange were pioneering new music stylings on Posh Boy Records. The guitars are less like a Mesa Boogie half stack and more like a vintage combo amp. The drums are less like Dave Raun and more like a young Todd Barnes. Likewise, the vocals lean more towards a John Lydon as opposed to a current day Chris Hannah. Now, throw in a little bit of switching back & forth of the guitar from a clean to dirty channel like one might hear on Operation Ivy and you are starting to get an idea of the core sound of Midnight Track.
The album opens with a brief instrumental intro that has a slower ska influenced groove and an almost funk-esque bassline that carries the melody. A song titled Another Place quickly follows to put all the pieces into play, and it becomes immediately clear that what you hear is what you get…punk rock! The tempo is fast and the guitars bounce between open strummed power chords as the raspy off-pitch vocals churn out old school cadences. Much of the lyrical content deals with personal politics and recurring themes such as, “I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing here”…..or “All my friends are really stupid and I am exactly like them”…..or “I’m really annoying just like you”. Like the instrumental components, the vocals are simple as the band conveys that people are who they are, take it or leave it. It’s worth pointing out that while most of the lyrical ideas are built on stock phrases and cliché’s that lost their snarky bite decades ago, there is something endearing and genuine about the way Midnight Track presents them. If I had to guess, I’d say English is the singer’s second language. This notion seems to change my perspective of where the band might be coming from.
A couple of tracks that stand out on the album include No Entiendo and Some People Never Change. On No Entiendo, the lyrics go down a sarcastic path with lines like, “let’s celebrate the global pollution…Let’s celebrate our ignorance”. Each verse is capped with a Spanish chorus, “Yo no entiendo, no entiendo nada” (translation: I don’t understand anything) and the syllables are crammed into a rapid fire vocal delivery that loosely reminded me of something Jason DeVore from Authority Zero might do. On Some People Never Change, Midnight Track goes into a group chant mode with a catchy sing-along chorus that simply states “we will never fucking change”. It’s one of those tracks that the band should probably play last in their live set when everyone in the crowd is drunk and hanging on each other while shouting along. I know I’ve joined in on my fair share of songs like this at bar shows!
Stripped down to the bare basics, the album is about as honest as you can get from both a performance and a production standpoint. The arrangements, while fairly organized, are rarely flashy which is, in part, an effect of the band being less-than-seasoned on their respective instruments. Engineered right here in SD by Jeff Forrest at Double Time, the production is indicative of a band that is working with a minimal budget. This is not to say that the recording doesn’t have a good sound quality though. Jeff has been engineering solid recordings for bands on budgets for decades now, and he does an outstanding job! My comment regarding the “budget sound” is more in reference to timing and performance flubs on the recording that give me the sense the band was likely paying by the hour and forced to be hasty at times for the sake of saving money. Quite frankly though, I don’t think it matters. Bands have different seasons throughout their lifespan and right now, Midnight Track is in their beginning season which is perfectly ok! They are definitely having fun and I hope they keep at it!
2 out of 5 SDP Skullz
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan