Straitjacket - Modern Thieves (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Modern Thieves (2005)


Over the past year or so, I've heard the majority of the releases from California-based punk label TKO. Through listening to all of those pretty diligently, I can't say that I've ever been "knocked out," or "floored" by anything the label has put out. Staggered, possibly, but never knocked out. They seemingly specialize in raw, gritty punk rock and in that, I can say they've done pretty damn well for themselves. Straitjacket is round 144 in TKO's assault on the music world, and while they come out of the corner swinging, they certainly won't be fighting late into the night.

Modern Thieves is chock full of a vigor and energy that carries well through the half an hour that this disc provides, with Brian Olson's snotty vocal style leading things all the way through. Any lack of variation or change of inflection is helped out by the other three members of the band, who all contribute some vocal help at one point or another. The singalongs may not be much in the way of duration, but they do help to break up what could be a quickly stagnating vocal style with a much needed shot of enthusiasm and at times, even melody. It may not seem like much, but Olson's vocals become much more effective when they're complemented by his bandmates versus doing everything alone. As simple as the vocal stylings are, the instrumentation is even more so.

Simple chords, simple progressions, occasional soloing.

That's Straitjacket's approach in a nutshell. Is it relatively easy and derivative? Yes. Does it fit the style in the way that the band was attempting? Yes there as well. This is a band clearly not trying to overstep or overwork their creative bounds. They know what they're capable of, and work well with that in mind. The song structures are simplistic, and leave nothing to the imagination, just the way I'm sure they like it. If "keep it simple" is their mantra, the lyrical piece of the puzzle fits perfectly in place as well.

Here again, the band stays relatively in tune with the ‘77 style of the Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers that they are so clearly emulating. Simple lyrics based around simple themes: "Don't try to stop me, I shine like a torch / I'll rise high above you, I don't need no remorse, no don't try to stop me and my cause." That excerpt from "I'm On Fire" perfectly compliments the raucous, volatile nature of the music being played. Though the band has a fairly limited musical scope, they stay true to what they know, and play well off their strengths. I can't say anything for the diversity or replay value of the album, because you're not going to find much, but if straight up punk rock with the spirit of ‘77 is your bag, this should be a knockout for you.