Strung Out - Live in a Dive (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Strung Out

Live in a Dive (2003)

Fat Wreck Chords

There are two kinds of live records. Those that are more than just a retrospective, but a fitting introduction to a band, and those that are more of a special release just for fans. Neither of these two types of records is better or worse than the other, but just like Live at the Roxy was a perfect introduction to Social Distortion and From Here to Eternity was a treat for Clash fans everywhere, albums seem to inevitably fall into these categories.

So how is Strung Out's addition to the thus far excellent Live in a Dive series?

It's really good. But that's not going to be a surprise to anyone who has seen Strung Out play in something smaller than the Warped Tour. These guys are just mind-blowingly good musicians, songwriters and foremost performers.

Strung Out has had a weird evolution; their first record Another Day in Paradise was good, if somewhat generic, Fat-styled punk rock. But shortly thereafter - in a year that would best be referred to as one of Fat's finest - accompanying Good Riddance's Comprehensive Guide, Propagandhi's Less Talk, More Rock, was Strung Out's breakout album, Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues. It still stands out to me as a perfect record for the band; sure, the follow up Twisted By Design has some incredibly good tracks, some even stronger than those on "Blues", but as a whole, nothing the band - or most of their contemporaries - has recorded approaches the consistency of songwriting, production and musical inventiveness that was all over "Blues"

The follow ups to these two amazing records, were somewhat anti-climatic for me; I was disappointed by American Paradox and the Element of Sonic Defiance; not because they were bad records, but because the direction they went in just didn't appeal to me.

As a result, this live record was most welcome; it was a chance to hear new interpretations of songs I know and love, and I believe that's why it will appeal to long time fans moreso then new ones, who I recommend should check out the studio records first.

The question, then, is how does it stand up as a record for people who have listened to Strung Out for a while. Well, one of the best things about it is the choice of tracks, which includes both popular album tracks like the explosive "Bring Out Your Dead", the indescribably positive "Too Close to See" and slightly less common "Barfly" which appeared on the excellent Crossroads and Illusions EP.

Not to mention, the interesting variations of classic Strung Out tunes like the slow harmonized intro to "Exhumation of Virginia Madision" really kept things fresh. (Slight digression here, but that track couples some of the most morbid and melancholy lyrics with the catchiest melodies I've ever heard)

The only track missing, sadly, was one of my absolute favourite Strung Out track "Wrong Side of the Tracks" which closes Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues but I can't fault them because the selection is otherwise thorough and incredibly well performed.

So the bottom line is:

If you haven't seen the band live yet, you should.

If you can't, this record is almost as good as being there.

If you don't like Strung Out, then I'm not really sure why you read all of this.