There are a host of toolbox items that aid in setting exciting and interesting bands apart from all the others. Whether learned or inherent, much of it really comes down to skill set and ability. It stands to reason that the more stuff you can pull-off on your respective instruments, the more equipped you should be (in theory) to build a song/album. To use a skateboarding analogy, no one really wants to watch a random dude on a ramp going back n forth, losing speed, and doing nothing but kick-turns over and over. Most would prefer to see a tour pro spinning, flipping, and launching high above the coping. Of course, there are always exceptions to any generalization. Sometimes a person actually does want to watch the kick-turns…for example, when it’s your 4 year old child doing it. Likewise with bands, seemingly talentless hacks can strike gold. At the end of the day, it’s all relative and subjectivity is a factor when it comes to music. Anomalies aside, the general rule of skill and ability still applies. When a group of advanced musicians come together, their odds of putting together good music (although not guaranteed), go up. The guys in the local San Diego band Strike Twelve harbor robust skill sets and have compiled one of the best pop-punk albums I have heard in a very long time!
The new record titled Down With the Ship consists of 13 outstanding and high energy tracks. With a foundation of solid lyricism and catchy melody, virtually every song is colored up and packaged with more bells and whistles than the top of the line Faraday & Future concept car. While the album flows with consistency, an array of different musical stylings are infused into classic and dynamic pop-punk grooves.
Opening with a song The End is Near, clean guitars and open string harmonics played in a minor key allude to a certain seriousness to come. The mood is reminiscent of the opening track on Propagandhi’s album Failed States although much less drawn out. The distortion kicks in with big down beat crashes and a churning octave melody before the beat drops around the 0:40 mark…and once it does, Strike Twelve proceed to melt faces with an arsenal of bada$$ery! Leaning toward the metal side of things, the tone is lifted with lead vocals that sound akin to Scott Russo or perhaps Adrian Estrella. With never-ending lyrical flow, the band takes the listener on a swift rollercoaster with minimal pre-ride wait times. A squirrely yet intricate and well-phrased lead guitar solo at 2:30 sounds off to solidify the band’s early announcement that, if I had to interpret the message, would be something along the lines of, “take that muffla suckaz!” The song shifts to a new time signature after the final chorus and slides in to home plate in a cloud of dust and with total style! Score: One to nothing…Strike Twelve is up!
The songs that follow move in to a lighter/fun pop-punk sound, while continuing to showcase an abundance of talent. Standstill features a great harmonized sing along chorus and closes with a funky breakdown highlighting colorful bass lines with pauses and stalls in the main groove that serve to remind the listener that the band is bringing their A-game as if nothing less was possible! Next, Failure is an Option starts out with a vocal melody that closely resembles Catch 22 by Assuming We Survive, but Strike Twelve inserts a slight hillbilly tinge to the arrangement demonstrating that the band can throw down even at a hoedown (<see what I did there?).
The incredibly well executed songs continue to pile up, and with each comes an array of blazing guitar solos. From the country plucks in Failure is an Option to the metal-ish leads in Cut the Cable, and on to the Latin-jazz influenced sweeps and trills in Apathy, the guitar playing on Down With the Ship is flat out on another level! …but why stop there? To be honest, so is all of the other instrumentation. There’s no slacking going on with the drums, the vocal stylings are on point, and the bass lines are as good as they come. Toss in a Descendents-esque progression on For A Moment and some fringe rock melodies on Midwest Town and it should be evident that Strike Twelve covers a lot of stylistic ground on this album. I guess the only thing left to do was take an early 80’s song and re-vamp it. Sometime back in 1982, German singer Peter Schilling released a song called Major Tom that charted well in multiple countries. It was an awesome song back then, and now it’s an awesome song today with new life breathed into it.
Joe, Matt, Danny, Andy…Hey guys!…I’m taking my hat off to you all! If I could send a message to SanDiegoPunk readers regarding the new record it would be quite simple. Down With the Ship is a fantastic album and you can file this gem under Must-Have! I’d add that it behooves you to look into the roster of bands and new releases coming from Felony Records. Sic Waiting, Skipjack, Kill Corporations, Strike Twelve etc….holy hell this label is absolutely ruling!!!
5 out of 5 SDP skulls
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan