Down By Law - windwardtidesandwaywardsails (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Down By Law

windwardtidesandwaywardsails (2003)

Union Label Group

If I'm not misreading my own opinions, this record makes me nostalgic. "Windwardtidesandwaywardsails" has a 90s skate punk feel to it that, for reasons I have yet to determine, sounds like "the good old days" to me. However this isn't sentimentality as much as it represents a point before punk music became infected with the sappy mall-emo sound of today. Down By Law don't deviate very far from their back catalogue, but in a field once crowded with similar bands they're looking more unique now than ever.

While by no means groundbreaking, "Windwardtidesandwaywardsails" is an enjoyable collection of tracks sure to please fans of Dave Smalley's other work. The lead-off song "Next To Go" is a blast of speedy punk rock that calls to mind the band's early releases. Just as catchy is the driving singalong street punk of "Put The Boots In." The band's penned some serious Clash worship here with tunes like "Capitol Riots" and "Johnny Law," which respectfully borrow some of Joe Strummer's street-poet writing style. Smalley's at his best during more heartfelt work like "Superheros Wanted" and "Easy Street," both of which allow his vocals to cover more range then the band's faster material.

Unfortunately the record turns out to be a little top-heavy and the momentum lags in the second half. It may very well be the production, but I find myself drifting a bit as the album draws to a close. Bassist Keith Davies and guitarist Sam Williams both contribute vocals to self-penned tracks that amicably stand up against Smalley's own strong material.

While "Windwardtidesandwaywardsails" isn't going to kick off any revolutions, it's definitely not a bad listen for those of us who grew up with the mid-90s Epitaph roster. Five years ago this wouldn't have kept my attention, but right now there's a spirit to these songs that I'm enjoying.