I scrambled Friday night to get an iTunes card to purchase my first ever album from the popular digital music service in time to throw it on my MP3 player before I headed out for the night. The Spirit Is Eternal wasn't kickin' around any choice file-sharing services, nor was the physical copy available at the nearest store. The experience alone deserves a review but, for now--the album.
Aside from a few of the MySpace offerings (only to realize later that all album tracks were there, streamed free), I was, until now, rather unfamiliar with Guns on the Run's twist on anthemic street-style punk rock. What I'd heard (for better or for worse) seemed to stand out from the handful of new music I'd been previewing.
Right out of the gate, "On the Run" and "For the Fallen" are both fast and chanty, though nearly identical. They both offer a very similar tempo and the lead vocals roll off the same nasally, whiny tongue--continually at the same pace, only muted (thankfully) by the cries of the background vocals. At first listen I figured that although they weren't breaking new ground, they featured unique vocals, which was appealing. Unique, sure, but less than 10 minutes into their gritty opus, Tommy Gunnz' voice wore terribly thin. His voice is thankfully pulled back in the mix of "Return of the Skinhead," a slower track with a groovier rhythm with slightly out-of-place leads that are refreshing overall.
The recording and production certainly work well here for the gang. The rhythm and bluesy guitar tracks--the album's highlight--are distant just enough from each other, not copying, but rather complementing each other. While the drums have a somewhat low budget box-like sound to them, they add character and I have no qualms with how they seem to fit here.
"Burning Betrayal" seems to follow the same formula as the opening tracks of the record until, out of left field, a Maiden-esque (or, ahem, Avenged Sevenfold-esque) lead riff peeks its head in and out of the verse only for it to return to a very bare-bones rock 'n' roll song. That (mostly) straightforward formula continues on what stands out as one of stronger songs on the record, "Rock N' Roll Rebel." Perhaps it's the classic Rancid-sounding guitar rhythms and killer blues leads, or moreover: Tommy finally sounds like he cleared his sinuses. Lyrically--like the bulk of the album--it's rather weak but a fun rocker nonetheless.
Hashing out working-class punk rock will often--especially now that it's a dying breed--receive its fair share of criticism for "being the same old thing," so one should hand it to them: They do try to change things up a little bit. It's merely unfortunate that the uniqueness of the vocals and odd "metal" riffings are more a determent than strength. "My guitar's all I'll ever need" is heard early on. Well, Tommy, focus on that, hand off the vocal duties, and you just might be sittin' pretty.
[Originally posted at West Coast Weasel blog]