Stockyard Stoics - Catastrophe (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Stockyard Stoics

Catastrophe (2004)


For a band of Oregonians transplanted in NYC, Stockyard Stoics sound right at home with Catastrophe, a fierce mix of NYC hardcore, Clash-inspired reggae rhythms and street level politics. The Stoics wisely keep their social commentary focused on life in the city, taking a bleakly dystopian view but a believable one. Money worries. The police state. Urban alienation. These are classic recurring themes, especially in punk rock, but they're easy to empathize with.

It's funny that on a record in which the majority of the songs deal with urban issues, the band's sole attack on US foreign policy is so broad and encompassing in scope. In a couple minutes "Occupational Hazards" hits on just about everything: Kosovo, the Philippines, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. It runs the risk of oversimplifying but lyricist Joe Piglet smartly pulls the issues back to earth, "Fly the flag in the dead of night and send the neighbour's kid to go and fight." Referring to Iraqi combatants as "forty thousand fathers" quite nicely ties issues of global politics into the band's more grounded perspective. However for the most part Piglet's lyricism is in the tradition of Strummeresque storytelling rather than knee-jerk rallying cries. "The Ballad of Maga and Squeaky" and "Turnpike South" both weave their criticisms in narratives and are all the more memorable and effective as a result. Even on the band's more direct tunes there's a sense that they've logged more hours living their politics and fighting for their convictions than the your dime-a-dozen leftist punk band.

Despite the fact that bassist Joe Piglet is the lead singer, his playing isn't at all restrained. He and onetime Morning Glory / Leftover Crack drummer J.P. Otto make up a fantastically strong rhythm section. On the faster songs like "Borrowed Time" guitarists Brendan (of the Readymen) and Aaron (X-Possibles, the Redundants) really show their fangs. The band's ska/reggae aspects are less prominent on the record then their press suggests. "City Lights" is a cool bass driven, dub-versed tune but the Stoics keep Catastrophe clearly in the punk vein. It leaves you wishing they had taken it a step further, as the interest is clearly here (the Burning Spear inspired cover art is proof). I'd love to hear the Stoics let loose and explore those aspects further in the future.

Stockyard Stoics have been fighting the good fight since the turn of the century but they still feel like a young band. That is to say that there's still untapped potential here and as tight and rocking as they are at times, but one gets the feeling there's something greater just on the horizon. Catastrophe is a lot of fun but I can't wait to see where it goes from here.