This album rips. Plain and simple, almost no need for discussion, but we’ve got to get a review somehow, right? The Brokedowns are arguably one of the most consistent acts in the realm of punk today and have been for a while. They are almost a well-kept secret in the scene; who knows where we’d be today if one of their tracks had been included on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack, when punk was possibly at its most lucrative and accessible. Sure, the timeline would have to be tweaked to get prime Brokedowns in that era, but how great would it have been to get one of these tracks in there...I digress, at the loss of the potential utopia that could have been wrought, but the bottom line is Maximum Khaki continues the reign of Chicago adjacent The Brokedowns.
The gem that is this album has so many facets in its short run time; from the pummeling riffs, the bursts of locked in grooves, and the dense, yet hilarious, lyrics, it will take a few listens to potentially grasp the full scope. Not that I know what the hell is going on, but I do know that each run through has been enjoyable. Most of the tracks barely hit the ninety second mark, which shows the strength in the band’s songwriting. They get the idea out for the song in less time than most bands can eke out a chorus. These songs are minutely grandiose. They ebb and flow, breath in such a short breadth, that you can’t help but take something away.
Lyrically, there’s a lot to digest, but they help the bleakness of life go down with plenty of humor. Who else could segue from sniffing glue to award winning anthropologist Ernest Becker’s (you’re familiar, right? Yeah...me, too) take on today’s consumer culture to making light of punks from the eighties and everyone’s favorite bumper stickers? Each song encapsulates a sharp take on the depressing or absurd and feeds it to you effortlessly. One example, and there are so many to choose from, is from “Samurai Sword Decontrol”:
I’m not afraid anymore
I’ve unlocked my doors
I worship the curve
I’ve got a samurai sword
Sounds hopeful, right? Simple and straight to the point...Even their take on what Hell is or isn’t like in “Satan In Quarantine” sounds slightly better than what all the fire and brimstone priests are telling us:
The demons won’t stop screaming
The wifi moves so slow
There’s two gargoyles 69ing
Constantly out my window
What Satan needs to know
There’s no shame in saying Hell don’t feel like home
One can’t help but sing along to such a phrase...Maybe there is still some good left in this world and The Brokedowns are trying to polish the turds that humanity unleashed and turn them into good vibes...or maybe they are in on the joke that we’re all fucked and should just ride out what good times we have left. That’s a lot to tackle for one punk album, but Maximum Khaki is just along for that ride, I suppose.
Sonically, the band is often compared to Dillinger Four and Hot Snakes/Drive Like Jehu. Sprinkle in a little bit of soul and hyper speed blues riffs and you’ve got The Brokedowns figured out. Not that it’s an easy thing to replicate, but just knowing that going into any of their albums lets you appreciate the subtle differences they bring, as well. The ambient bridge in “Stay Calm Stay Cruel”, the bass and drum groove in the aforementioned “Satan In Quarantine”, and the slick chorus wedged between the dissonant guitars in “Kony 2022” are just a few instances.
I could keep word vomiting about these guys, but reading through what’s here already is costing you precious time to give Maximum Khaki a spin. The Brokedowns have graced us once again with an album and hopefully most of you all give it a chance; those that are familiar have already been spreading the word. It’s an impressive effort in such a short run time and just another example of what they are capable of.