Bruce Lee Band - Division in the Hearland (Cover Artwork)

Bruce Lee Band

Division in the Hearland (2021)

Asian Man records

I’ve come to realize that Mike Park can do no wrong. And this is not just a mere opinion. This is pretty much a fact. Now that’s not to say that everything he produces or releases is legendary, but he is a punk rock legend that flies completely under the radar. And he’s in this business for all the right reasons. After 25 years of humbly running Asian Man Records and playing in various bands for even longer, he has teamed up with Jeff Rosenstock, Dan Potthast, and Kevin Higuchi for another incarnation of the Bruce Lee Band.

The opening track, “Say Goodbye to Yesterday”, sets the tone right away, insinuating that the songs on this EP may have a slightly different feel than previous releases. With somewhat of a calypso rhythm, an eerie horn driven melody, a slow tempo, and lines like “the candle grows dim and the light starts to fade”, this track seems to be an expression of frustration and angst that has grown out of recent events over the last few years. But this feeling is slightly alleviated at the end of the second chorus with a horn crescendo that offers a bit of triumph and a possibility of hope, though the song ends with somewhat of a question mark.

The feeling changes a bit on the next track, “Impressions”, which starts with a cool little bass line that segues into a more upbeat rhythm and a surfy feel. It serves as a needed change to relieve some of the anxiety expressed in the opener, though the lyrics may suggest otherwise.

But the relief quickly subsides as we get to “Divisions in the Heartland”, the lead single from this record. Everything about this song (the rhythm, the chord choices, the keys, etc) is clearly a manifestation of growing “tired of being full of such anxiety and hate” and trying to express these feelings through music. But once again, the tension eases as we get to the chorus and the last part of the song, which offers a welcomed sense of hope for change.

This idea flows perfectly into the next tune, “BLT”. Rosentock takes lead vocal duties here, singing in Korean, backed by an upbeat rhythm, a punk chorus, and horns that mimic the melody adding more depth to a fairly straight forward song. The “Bruce Lee Theme” is just some good ol’ fun and provides a needed repose from the serious nature of the rest of the record.

And as we get to the opening few lines of “Melting”, the last track on the EP, we realize that the band has run through the gamut of ska styles: from horn-driven upbeats reminiscent of early ska to aggressive ska-punk of the ’80s, ‘90s and beyond.This track starts with a cool little groove that blends early reggae rhythms with modern ska beats. The song changes tempo often and the melodic parts are sandwiched between a few seconds of cacophony, which consequently makes for a catchy tune and a nice way to finish off a pretty solid record.

Overall, this will be a welcomed edition to the record collection for most fans of the band. The song writing is poignant and passionate and the musicianship is tight, which is pretty much expected from these veteran musicians. The songs were more or less written as an exercise in mental health and they offer a nice little snapshot of modern times. And while the tone is clearly built out of anger and frustration, there is an underlying positive attitude. An attitude of hope. An attitude of peace. And an attitude of love.