For people who do not know, Ramshackle Glory is the newest project from Pat Schneeweis, otherwise known as Pat "the bunny," who is responsible for Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains and Wingnut Dishwasher's Union. Pat is arguably one of the most interesting and passionate people in the punk music scene today and this is due to his unique and honest way of expressing himself that is relevant to the lives of the many people who find solace in the punk community. Through Pat's various projects he has always exhibited a sense of sincerity and rawness in his lyrics. Each musical project that he has worked on also seems to represent a stage in his life where he might have been forced to alter or adapt his previous perspectives on the world in order to recognize new realities. The way I personally view him is as a philosophical type who is not afraid to utilize methods of critical thinking to question what is wrong with the world and try to elicit change, but is also willing to question his own views in order to make improvement upon and strengthen his arguments.
Pat's earlier work as Johnny Hobo, which consisted of songs written when he was a teenager, featured nihilistic punk anthems about drugs, alcohol and anti-authoritarian sentiments of smashing the state. Kind of like a folk version of Leftover Crack. These songs are great and a lot of the topics do remind me of how I felt about things as a teenager, but those feelings served as a source for my more refined views of the world as an adult which makes these songs valuable and relevant. As Pat got older, he no longer felt comfortable playing these songs with the same conviction as he once did, so he started a new project called Wingnut Dishwasher's Union and wrote new songs. These songs became less focused on drugs and alcohol and to some extent he became critical of such things. As he got older his views matured and the music reflected this change. The W.D.U. songs were equally angst-ridden and passionate and his political ideations still had a powerful presence. I'm not certain what might have happened through Pat's life at this point, but he had posted a message on his Web site stating that he would be entering rehab and that he was not sure if he would be playing music any more. This was heartbreaking for a lot of people who felt a deep connection to his music.
Then news came that Pat was out of rehab and had started a new band called Ramshackle Glory. Pat is now clean and sober and appears to be very motivated about making music again. I was a little skeptical about what his music would sound like now because of his change in lifestyle, but still excited to hear it. Live the Dream was released earlier this year. From the first song I heard, I knew this album was going to be amazing. It definitely sounds different than his other stuff mostly because the multi-instrumentation, but also because of the tone. He isn't so much screaming as much as he used to, but the passion in his voice is not lost. The different instruments that are on this album really add a lot to the songs and give it a lot of depth, but lyrics are still the best part. With songs that represent his struggle for sobriety with lines like "I've been listening to Minor Threat records all day / And shit if I do not know every word / I sing along as I tie off / And Ian screams he's 'out of step' as I throw the cotton into the spoon / Draw up into the syringe / I'll know just what he means until I hit a vein." He relates how his addiction prevented him from reconciling his personal beliefs with his actions and how it lead him to do things he was not proud of.
"Never Coming Home" is a slower song, but the message tends to hit pretty hard with lines like "If you want salvation, then you ought to go see a priest / Because forgiveness from those that we hurt in this world never was guaranteed." Another highlight on the album is "First Song Part 2;" each line tends to hit like a punch. That last couple lines of the album are some of my favorites because he establishes that his political stances haven't changed and also hints at his theoretical perspective: "What the news calls economics / I still call it violence / If your god is a judge or a jailer / I'm still an atheist / But I try to have faith in the things that will happen / I get saved from myself when I do / So maybe 'God' isn't the right word / But I believe in you."
I would give more descriptions of the songs, but this review is getting kind of long and it's probably best if you just listen to it yourself. I know this album isn't going to appeal to everybody, but for me it is one of the top releases of the year and I that hope Pat stays sober and continues to make music.
You can check out the whole album streaming here.