Vocalist and guitarist Seth Gile's repeated lamentation of "waiting just for nothing" throughout Arms Aloft's debut LP Sawdust City is a notion that will surely resonate with fans of the band. After all, Arms Aloft have released just one lonely EP and a split with the Manix since their 2007 demo.
But holy shit was this worth the wait.
It's possible Propagandhi's Failed States will come to top it, but this is the best punk record I've heard all year and really the best I've heard in quite a few. It's a perfection of the type of Dillinger Four-inspired, whiskey-voiced, distorted guitars Midwestern punk rock that patrons of this site hold dear. More importantly though, as much as that still stands as an apt description of their sound, Arms Aloft really carve out a niche for themselves with their first full-length and prove to wear their influences on their sleeve while avoiding being purely derivative. It's a fulfillment of the promises made by the band's terrific Comfort At Any Cost and further supplemented by one of the best contributions to a split 7" in recent memory.
Speaking of that split, if there's a complaint to be made about Sawdust City it's that a good chunk of it will sound familiar to owners of the band's back catalogue as "DOUBLEDRANOPERCOCETNOICE" and "Skinny Love" first appeared on the record they shared with the Manix while an ancestral version of "Irish Coffee" was present on the band's aforementioned demo. The latter two, though, improve with their re-recordings and "Coffee" in particular sounds entirely different than it did on their demo and stands as one of the highlights of the record.
Sawdust City is also thematically cohesive, describing the decay of an American city for reasons stemming from Wall Street exploitation (the chorus of "St. Peter, please don't call us / We can't afford to go / We owe our homes and souls to those on the trading floor" on the record's third track is as catchy as it is devastatingly incisive), rampant pollution ("This Bag Is Not A Toy" almost sounds like it could have fit on the Falcon's Unicornography and is a well-earned departure musically from the remainder of the album) and the religious right (the title of "10/22/1844" is a nice reference to The Great Disappointment).
Despite the city's myriad warts and its teetering on collapse, though, Gile confesses he still has reason to stay on the record's closing track, and perhaps its strongest, admitting "There's no way to explain to you the perfect sense this place has made to me." Despite my feeble attempt in this review, there's no way to do justice in writing to the perfect sense this record makes. Just listen to it. And while you're at it, catch one of Arms Aloft's shows too; they're terrific live and seemingly always on tour.