Far too infrequently these days do I encounter a band, either live or via a recording, that is able to hit me like a freight train careering downhill with its brakes failing from the pure enjoyment of their music. From hearing a few tracks on their MySpace page, I pre-ordered the latest offering from The Great St. Louis via the excellent Boss Tuneage label. In spite of the frequent mentions of Leatherface in reviews of this band (am I the only person non-plussed by the adoration heaped upon Leatherface?), I was still intrigued as to how the Great St. Louis would come across over the 10 tracks on In Your Own Time and eagerly awaited its arrival.
To say my first listen was akin to listening to some of my all-time favourite albums for the first time (Stiff Little Fingers' Nobody's Heroes; Bad Religion's Suffer; Avail's Over the James; Ramones' Leave Home amongst them) would not be overdoing the the praise the Great St. Louis so richly deserve for producing such a fresh and enjoyable album. Okay, there is something of Leatherface within their sound, but for me, it doesn't sound like the plethora of bands blatantly ripping off what is--for many--a popular punk sound. This is no Leatherface-alike attempt to churn out gruff punk rock; this is no hackneyed reproduction of other bands; it's more of a band who have come together to deliver a suite of songs worthy of few comparisons.
However, my ears are drawn to more similarities to UK bands such as the Abs, Dr. Bison and HDQ, all of whom were able to produce tuneful and melodic punk rock using an approach that favours strong songwriting, a consistent use of tunes and without sacrificing a punk edge that was often the first element of any punk band trying to do something different, which often included over-producing a more slick and tidy piece of work.
Album opener "Moorsey" begins at a pace akin to the aforementioned runaway train as it rips along for just over two minutes. What follows is a relentless race to the end of the album through nine more tracks, with all but two clocking in at less than three minutes. With the Great St. Louis you have songs that get you singing along, dusting down the air guitar (but more chord-driven that any fancy pants soloing) and also the oft-forgotten air drums! The guitars and vocals are right up in the mix but not to the detriment of the rhythm section, so you get a synergistic approach which produces a full-on and pleasurable assault on one's senses, with memorable hooks flying at you with each song.
Whereas some albums fade towards their end, there's none of that here with quality being produced throughout, all the way to the penultimate track, the excellent "Strawman," one of the more frenetic songs on the album, and ending with "Croal," providing a very strong finish to an excellent record.
The Great St. Louis remind me of why I started listening to punk music back in the '70s--for me, it was initially pure enjoyment and exhilaration. As I grow older I still search for bands who are able to produce that something different and who are able to make me stand up and dance around the house like a demented monkey--for now, that search is over and I am grateful to the band for giving me my favourite album of 2010 so far.
This is the Great St. Louis's second album and I now have to get hold of their previous release, Forever Now, to see how good that is too. There are many good bands taking to the road these days in the UK and it's always nice to get a total surprise like this to reassure me that my quest for new and exciting music isn't in vain. Hopefully, I'll get to see them live too--I can only imagine how good they will be blasting out these punk rock songs in that setting.