Banner Pilot - Heart Beats Pacific (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Banner Pilot

Heart Beats Pacific (2011)

Fat Wreck Chords

With the breakout success of their 2009 effort, Collapser, Minnesotan act Banner Pilot has a lot riding on LP #3. Like their labelmates the Flatliners, the band seems poised for bigger things. These expectations make the group's follow-up, Heart Beats Pacific, something of a disappointment at first, to the extent that it's a predictable follow-up. For all the Jawbreaker comparisons that follow frontman Nick Johnson's lyrics, the band has yet to approach that band's level of stylistic experimentation. At the same time, though, it's hard to get mad at the band for refining what made Collapser so good. I mean, have you heard that record? It made me choose life.

By the band's own admission, Pacific is a safe move. It takes everything Collapser did well--the introspective lyrics and the infectious, snotty hooks--and goes bigger. Johnson sounds more assured here. The guitars are denser, heavier and generally more interesting. The production is straight up better, clean enough that all of the instruments come through without glossing everything over in studio cheese. One way the band earns their Jawbreaker comparisons is by letting Nate Gangelhoff's bass anchor so many of the tunes (Also, the intro to "Isolani" sounds like something off of Dear You. Who's with me?).

Heart Beats Pacific is a really good Midwestern punk record. It's up there with Dillinger Four's greatest hits. Sure, it sounds like a bevy of other Midwest bands like Dear Landlord and Off With Their Heads (who, coincidentally, have borrowed Gangelhoff on occasion), but it's better. It's in the way the songs bounce effortlessly, constantly propelled by desire and winter despair. It also helps that the guys are good songwriters.

Take "Eraser" for example. It's a song about drankin' and missing someone something fierce. A fairly common topic for the punk set, but Johnson injects so much empathy into the track that it defies what's come before. The whole song is lush with imagery, but lines like "Nothing changes but the time" and "I'm finding out I don't do very well alone / But I know that you're not coming home" hit hard. I don't care if you're straight edge, this one goes for the heart. In the great pop-punk tradition, it's also catchy as hell despite being pretty darn depressing.

The last few years have been good for Banner Pilot. Collapser rocked faces, the 2010 remaster job on Resignation Day proved it was actually a great record all along and now fans have Heart Beats Pacific to memorize. Yeah, all three repeat the same style. But it's a good one.