The Flatliners - Division of Spoils (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Flatliners

Division of Spoils (2015)

Fat Wreck Chords

For some reason it’s hard to think of the Flatliners as veterans of the punk scene, but at this point it’s undeniable: going strong for over ten years, they’ve released four albums and a litany of EPs and singles that have delivered each and every time. I suppose it’s their ability to always sound fresh that keeps them from feeling like they’ve been around for as long as they have. Division of Spoils is 23 tracks culled from this decade of the Flatliners’ existence, and the collection of B-sides, singles, and covers demonstrates their uncanny ability to produce excellent Fat Wreck-style punk rock. Now one of the premiere bands on the label, the Flatliners’ B-game is better than most bands’ A-game, and Division of Spoils makes this fact plain.

Specializing in a form of frenetic punk rock with a musicianship somewhat akin to fellow Canadian legends Propagandhi, Chris Cresswell and company bring the shred to every song they produce. Cresswell himself remains one of the most talented singers in the punk scene, and the diversity of his vocals, as well as its evolution, is never more apparent than on Division of Spoils. Switching effortlessly from a scratchy scream to a mellow croon, it is impressive to listen to how he has refined his voice over the years. But it is not just the vocals that impress -- bassist Jon Darbey is one of the best in the scene at his craft as well, and drummer Paul Ramirez features a very clean, almost clinical style that reminds one of Jord Samolesky of Propagandhi. Combined with impressive guitarwork, the Flatliners never half-ass anything.

One could hear Division of Spoils and, not knowing the better, believe it a proper full-length. The songs assembled don’t have the “throw away” feel so many of these collections have. While it lacks some of the thematic cohesion of most albums (as is expected with collections of this sort), quality is never an issue. Highlights include banger “Broken Men”, “This Guy Reads From a Card”, “Calutron Girls”, “Daggers”, the fantastic “Wynford Bridge”, and “Sticky Bastards”. Included in some of the older songs on the collection are ska elements that the Flatliners originally were associated with, including in the excellent “Sleep is For Bitches”. Towards the tail-end of Division of Spoils is a collection of covers, including Johnny Cash’s “Cry Cry Cry”, Tragically Hip’s “Ahead by a Century”, and “Straight American Slave” by Rocket From the Crypt. These covers give the Flats a chance to explore satisfyingly different sounds -- “Cry Cry Cry” sounds like the best Against Me! song you’ve never heard, while “Straight American Slave” stays faithful to the original, showing the Flatliners’ more raucous, rock n’ roll side.

Division of Spoils is an impressive look at the band’s “other” songs, and demonstrates just how talented this band really is. Not only is it good, but it feels like a vital part of the Flatliners’ discography.