The New Breed - Off The Beaten Path (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The New Breed

Off The Beaten Path (2004)


Call it Maritime charm if you will, but there's definitely something earnest and remarkably amiable about The New Breed that I've never quite been able to peg. The Halifax five-piece returns with Off The Beaten Path, a thirteen-track package showing off real growth in songwriting from last year's Port City Rebels, but despite covering very well-trod territory there's something almost intangibly engaging about the band's music.

The New Breed continue to show strong parallels with McColgan era Dropkick Murphys. It's partly due to Jonny Stevens' vocal style, but there's also a similar stripped down, simple-as-a-virtue rock'n'roll feel to this work. Anyone who preferred the Murphys as a four piece, free of the busy instrumentation and huge production values of their later work will feel right at home on Off The Beaten Path. That's not to say that The New Breed are entirely defined by their contemporaries, as they show off a unique character here that I'm going to go out on a limb and define as Acadian. That observation's based on the prominence of a mandolin in these recordings and the rustic Old World folk influences of tracks like "Port City Rebels," "Streets Of Gold" and "Bombs For Oil" (which is one violin short of a full-blown anti-war jig). If not fully Acadian it's definitely in the spirit of Celtic music that Nova Scotia is so known for. Regardless of how many genres I manhandle in describing this record, I can confidently say that these elements are well integrated and never once come off as a gimmick. In that respect there's a huge divide in what the New Breed are doing and the handful of U.S. street punk bands who've taken up Celtic influences in recent years. This just never seems forced.

There's pretty low production values here but on the positive side that means Off The Beaten Path never needlessly pummels you to get its point across. Stevens, like McColgan, has a unique and honest singing voice that, while not without its limitations, is drawn on frequently in lieu of more aggressive shouting. Instrumentally the band isn't doing anything that wasn't done in the 70s but there's an authentic feel to it. The guitar work in the intro to "Smoking Gun" is vintage Flamin' Groovies and the track itself is a great mid-tempo Misfits channelling punk tune. There's nothing here as aggressive as Port City Rebels' anthem "Born Against," but The New Breed's strength is in their songwriting, not their bombast. For these reasons the "street punk" label may be somewhat misleading; this is more in line with the Swinging Utters / Social D' and worlds away from the Unseen / Casualties end of the spectrum.

I'm really pleased with this album. It's an honest, well-paced, soulful record that arrives with zero posturing or overblown expectations. Top if off with some beautiful artwork and liner notes from Relapse Records' Orion Landau and you've got quite the worthwhile release. For your fix of tuneful working class punk rock I can recommend no better than the "bastard sons of the Maritimes."