Plow United - Marching Band (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Plow United

Marching Band (2013)

Jump Start Records

While a lot of '90s punk and hardcore bands have reunited over the last couple of years, few have produced new material. Not so with Plow United. Reunited since 2011's Riot Fest East, the Pennsylvania punk performers have produced a belated follow-up to 1998's Narcolepsy. Jump Start Records could not have a more prescient label name, as Marching Band finds Plow United building on the classic, frantic sound they pioneered.

As if the Sleepwalk collection didn't already make it clear, Plow United can seamlessly cram more ideas into a song than some bands do in an album. Opener "Human 2000" is a 78-second melodic punk in the vein of the Loved Ones and Lucero. It's flecked with piano, but the harmony is what definitely sells it. "Act Like It" flails out at a breakneck pace, but Plow United were always great at ludicrous speeds. The song plays sort of like two songs jammed together, but they're both super catchy so everybody wins.

Marching Band finds the common threads between different versions of rock: "Cui Bono?" is nearly hardcore, "The Beginning of the End of the World" is nearly classic rock, "The War is Over and Our Side Won" is definitely a joke song. If the riff works, don't fix it. Coupled with an aversion to filler, the guys keep their songs tight. Listening to Plow United makes me realize how much fat other punk bands use to pad their songs. Plow United aims for speedy delivery and big hooks.

Admittedly, the catchiest songs are packed in the front (the first four tracks are so perfect together it's almost dangerous), making the record slightly unbalanced in its third quarter or so. A few of the tracks have some awkward editing choices, such as a vocal punch in "Get Low" that sounds unnatural starting before the previous line resolves. But "Get Low" is also one of the record's highlights, so go figure. Marching Band is a real romper stomper; by the time closer "Megger" kicks in, I'm already ready to start the record again. It's easy to get cynical with reunions, but in Plow United's case, it has repeatedly yielded huge gains.