The Freeze - Calling All Creatures (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Freeze

Calling All Creatures (2019)

Slope Records

I really am getting to be an old fuck. (I think I’m going to start every review like this from now on.) Most of my favorite bands have been around for more than 30 years. In the case of The Freeze, it’s actually over 40 years. Their roots go all the back to 1978 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They were a part of that great Boston scene in the early ‘80s that also included Gang Green, Jerry’s Kids, FUs, SSD and Negative FX. Their first two records, Land of the Lost (1983) and Rabid Reaction (1985) are widely considered punk classics. The truth is, The Freeze’s four ‘90s LPs were damn good too. Even after 20 years of studio silence, Calling All Creatures was one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2019.

Call it a self fulfilling prophecy, but I really enjoyed Calling All Creatures. For those unfamiliar with The Freeze, they play straight up punk rock. The songs revolve largely around singer Clif Hanger’s mental struggles, drug addiction and general paranoia. His lyrics are dark and funny, with more than a little bitterness. He knows what it’s like to feel like an outsider, even when you’re where you’re supposed to belong. More importantly, he knows how to put those feelings into twisted words. Although the band has long since relocated to Arizona, the core songwriting team of Hanger and ever frowning guitarist Bill Close is still in place. Close’s solid riffing and leads are almost as familiar as Hanger’s raspy voice and desperate words.

The Freeze do not attempt to reinvent the wheel on Calling All Creatures. That’s a good thing. Instead, they stick with the strengths that made so many of us into loyal fans in the first place. A sense of relief actually came over me when opener “World I Know” came roaring from the speakers. Let’s face it, 20 years is a long time. They could have turned into Styx or something. Paranoid songs like “Neighborhood Pride” and “Office of Family Design” have always been a Freeze trademark, but now, distrust of the surveillance state seems much more justified. Maybe old Clif Hanger was just ahead of his time. (“Alexa, order me the new album by The Freeze.”) Fear of your neighbors and of government overreach are constant themes on Calling All Creatures.

“Blood Flows Home” is the centerpiece of Calling All Creatures, for a number of different reasons. Blood is another common theme of The Freeze. The blood that is family, and the blood that is spilled over the course of the life of a miscreant. It also repeatedly references their 1991 LP Misery Loves Company. I believe it’s the first ever Freeze song to feature acoustic guitar. The title track seems to show a general lack of faith in humanity, even as it acknowledges that we are all essentially the same. “We once crawled as creatures/From the same black lagoon/We will return to it soon”. Closer, “Burn Away”, dreams of destroying everything and starting again.

Maybe a clean slate is what The Freeze was hoping for with Calling all Creatures. After all, they’ve got a new record, a new label and another chance to right some wrongs. Is that really possible? Will they ever actually be able to leave their troubled past behind? I don’t know, but there is not a bad song among the 12 on Calling All Creatures. That in itself is a pretty rare feat. It might not reach the spastic highs of the band’s very best work, but it’s still consistently good. I don’t know if the kids will like it, but I love it. It’s like when you catch up with an old friend and it feels like no time has passed at all. When 2019 is said and done, I can’t imagine that The Freeze’s Calling All Creatures won’t be among this old fuck’s favorite records of the year. Highly recommended.