Fun, catchy Boston drunk rock: check. Guest appearances by Dicky Barrett, Ken Casey, and Glen Pine: check. Confusing lyrical themes: check.
Darkbusters's A Weakness for Spirits is one of the most perplexing punk albums I've heard in a while. Now, I'm not so na´ve to believe that Darkbuster writes all their lyrics to be genuine portrayals of their beliefs, having written songs like the satirical "Join the N.R.A." and "I Hate the Unseen." But with "Stand and Deliver," the second track of the album -- an entire song devoted to honoring the U.S. military -- needless to say it is surprising given the lyrics: "They're the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines / They sacrifice their lives for our country / Stand and deliver! Stand and fight! / Or the Devil takes our ever-lovin' soul tonight / Early in the morning / In the darkest night / They protect our freedom / They protect our rights." Yes, I know Strung Out wrote a song called "Support Your Troops," but it's pretty clear the undertones in that song were quite different. "Skinhead" is another song that might make more P.C. listeners wince, as it presents the skinhead as an average working class citizen like the rest of us. Again, I'm fully aware that skinheads started out against racism, but with the spread of Aryan Youth supremacy groups, the skinhead has become something much different. Adding to this is the song "Grandma Was a Nazi" with the lyrics "If Grandma was a Nazi, it wouldn't make a fuck to me," a stark contrast to the "Fuck Nazi Sympathy" idea of Aus-Rotten in the mid-`90s. Given this brief overview of the more puzzling lyrics of A Weakness for Spirits I want to make it absolutely clear that this does not mean Darkbuster should be considered racist, right-wing nazis. I believe quite the opposite is actually true, which is just what makes their lyrical themes so baffling.
As it were, the most impressive part of this album is the music, and what great music it is. Most of the album is fast-paced punk rock in the same vein as the Street Dogs, the Ducky Boys, or early Dropkick Murphys. Many have goofy, entertaining lyrics such as "Cantaloupes," which touches on the subject of swollen testicles, and "Gurley's Cell Phone Number," the "867-5309 (Jenny)" of punk rock. The two ska songs on A Weakness for Spirits -- "Rudy" and "DJ" -- are both utterly fantastic, the second of which pays tribute to the work of Joe Strummer and the Clash. The more serious tracks like "Shoulda Known Better" and "Give Up Dope" demonstrate that the band is not all about comedy and satire, but does so without ruining the flow of the album.
All in all, A Weakness for Spirits is a great album, capable of winning over even the moderate punk listener with the delightful sounds of their carefree brand of Boston street punk. Some of the lyrics might throw listeners for a loop initially, but I have no doubt that Darkbuster will be able to keep representing working class punk rock from Boston to Los Angeles for many years to come.