The Stone Operation. opens with frontman Erik Petersen flaunting his determination and ends with the hammer of fate driving him into the ground. Mischief Brew's second studio LP solidifies the what makes the group great, but for some reason, gives somewhat of a bleaker view of the universe than past efforts.
"A Lawless World" features Petersen pointing back at finger-pointers and metaphorically going white knuckle on the steering wheel of Mischief Brew. Propelled by a driving rock beat, the song, matching the intensity of the rest of the album, is one of the hardest tunes the group has cut to date. Interestingly, when Mischief Brew started over a decade ago, the punk singer/songwriter trend had yet to bloom, and Petersen, while soulful, often sounded softer than many of the other bands on the bill with his folk punk/pre-war blues mix.
Now that punk is rife with older punkers pulling the Billy Bragg/Johnny Cash combo, Mischief Brew either purposefully or by instinct has separated themselves from the lot by amping up the electricity, and using riffs that when separated from their themes of union labor and under class rebellion, could sit at home on hardcore punk and even death metal albums.
Remarkably, while The Stone Operation. does bring the heat, thankfully, the band has kept the hinky-jinky-junkyard swing that forms the core of their identity. In addition to bringing their usual accouterment of junkyard instruments, including what sounds to be rusty pipes and sheet metal, the band weaves in continental European instrumentation including a range of oompah instruments and the accordion.
Just as their instruments are pulled from scrapheaps across the globe, the band themselves trek through the continents and comment on globalization. Petersen addresses Paris right before the second world war and surveys the battle preparations. In "Dallas in Romania", he muses on the Americanization of foreign countries, and then flips the table and wonders if in this age of great diversity, if there is even a thing as Americanization. And while Mischief Brew has referenced the netherworld in the past more as a metaphor and reference to the prohibition tunes that gave birth to their sound, here, the band directly gazes into the clouds and down into the pit of brimstone.
Throughout the album, the band describes different types of oppression, from cultural, to economic, to physical. They overcome the conflict through core values, handwork, or by simply removing themselves from the system. But, just as the album seems to end on a light note with "Drinking Song for the Home Stretch" where Petersen and gang curse the owner of a nine-car garage and forget their sorrows in the company of friendship and good ale, a harsh wind blows through the speakers. After a short eternity "Drinking Song from the Tombs", a Rudimentary Peni cover, cracks through the crusts and reminds the band that no matter their earthly struggles, there is one inescapable end shared by both the most diabolical CEO and the most earnest manual laborer...