The Gunshy - Silent Songs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Gunshy

Silent Songs (2013)

Sleep Recordings

For a band that enjoys a multitude of connections to musicians of quality pedigree, The Gunshy continues to be fairly unknown. Silent Songs boasts help from Jeff Rosenstock (BTMI!), Mike Huguenor (Hard Girls, Shinobu), Sean Bonnette (Andrew Jackson Jihad) and layout design from Max Stern (Signals Midwest). Additionally, they’ve had plenty of opening spots on prominent tours running through their hometown of Chicago. Despite working with what is essentially a team of punk all stars and playing with the likes of Restorations and Beach Slang, The Gunshy remains a local act that essentially boils down to Matt Arbogast and anyone playing with him at that moment.

Silent Songs is a collection of tunes written and recorded primarily by Arbogast over a few years, with the help of the above-mentioned group. There is an Eternal Cowboy-era Against Me! vibe to many of the tracks: powerful, simple, folksy numbers, blasted through a big, loud punk scope. These songs, like “The Independent,” “Writers and Doctors” and “Anarchists on Foodstamps” are emotive and energetic, easily carrying all of the album’s momentum. Others, like “Bourbon in my Coffee” and “Silent Songs” lean heavily on the folk side, even careening towards a country/ bluegrass tone, but still are lively and catchy. The album loses a bit of steam with the remaining tracks: the slow, often mopey acoustic numbers. “Getting High In Denver” and “Mississippi” are almost interchangeable, and Silent Songs could benefit from less hushed moments like these.

One of the biggest love-or-hate factors for this band is Arbogast’s voice. Live, he gives a hoarse, angry bark out of the corner of his mouth, but on this record, his voice comes through mostly as a rough whisper. At moments, it gives the songs an edge, but it can be monotonous, draining and even goofy (one of my friends says, “He sounds like a pirate”). Whether you hear it as a positive or negative, it’s certainly a unique voice, a good fit for the style and one that many Dropkick Murphys diehards could appreciate.

Silent Songs is a solid folk-punk collection that should have opened Arbogast to a bigger audience. Though it’s not a masterpiece by any means, the album has a lot of strong, impassioned tracks that are rousing and memorable. The Gunshy are one of the Midwest's many hidden gems.