Sometimes records take a while to sink in. That's the only rationalization I can give for why None More Black's This Is Satire scored a measly 6/10 in its initial review last year. And with hindsight's advantage, the band's would-be swan song is a perfect send-off from a band who left behind a legacy of hard work, dedication, and passion in punk rock.
My discovery of This Is Satire was purely by chance. The newspaper for which I had been writing reviews had a small stack of promo CDs in the office, which was normally a pile of crap. Yet by the grace of a higher being, the bamboozling artwork of This Is Satire stared up at me from the bottom of the stack one day last spring. The newspaper unfortunately downsized and stopped doing reviews before I had a chance to share this masterpiece with the world, but over a year later, I haven't stopped recommending this album to anyone who inquires about "good punk rock."
As clichéd as it can be to start a review with the first song, "We Dance on the Ruins of the Stupid Stage" is arguably the album's finest, and sets a perfect tone for what's to follow. Ex-Kid Dynamite frontman Jason Shevchuk spits lyrics that are at once jaded, cynical, and reflective, without ever losing their witty, ironic edge. With the break-up of None More Black behind us, it's even more clear through "We Dance on the Ruins..." that the band had been teetering on the edge of throwing in the towel for some time: "I gotta semi-hollow body on my chest / My back hurts, my throat is feeling stressed / And I swear by the end of the night / I'll be coughing up the morning's drive / The strings are cutting through my skin / And the rash opens up again / … / Beaten up by the things we savor / I'm worn out." The song ends with the ominous and prophetic line: "Once Satire takes the stage, we'll be worn out."
Musically, the band elevated to their pinnacle with This Is Satire. Hook, after hook, after hook fills the record's diverse offering that ranges from the melodic hardcore of "With the Transit Coat On" to the country-tinged "10 Ton Jiggawatts" to the folksy "Majestic," and back again to the pop-punk of "My Wallpaper Looks Like Paint." The cynical "You Suck! But Your Peanut Butter Is OK" is a biting censure of the armchair critics (many of whom populate this site) who pigeonhole punk bands and paralyze their progress: "Would you exist without all the fists the music clenched for you? / You're dressed up like a full-bodied anarchist / Right down to your views / … / The ticket price, the songs that you write / 'We've got our eyes on you' / The internet is just a minute away / I'm telling on you." The album ends with "Majestic," one of the slowest songs on the album that saunters along, led by a haunting chord progression and some of Shevchuk's most personally reflective lyrics: "Twenty-nine years into life / Some things I still can get right / … / I play in a band, I work when I'm home / Why do I feel guilty for the shit that I've done? / I've opened some doors, slammed just as many / Opportunity's knocked, how can you blame me? / I'm trapped in a life that I've chosen."
This Is Satire is easily one of the best albums Fat Wreck Chords has ever put out, and one of the most dynamic efforts from a punk band in the new millennium. Topped off by great production by the legendary J. Robbins, This Is Satire is the triumphant finale of a band who is already sorely missed.