Down With The Ship
California melodic-skate punkers Strike Twelve really wowed me with Moonshine, a shining reminder that EpiFat inspired punk rock still exists in the present age. They fit in well alongside their fellow peers comprising the under-recognized California EpiFat revival, like Sic Waiting, The Shell Corporation, Margate and DC Fallout. Fast forward four years and the band returns with their next installment, the thirteen track LP, Down With The Ship. Careful not to retread old ground, the skilled four-piece lighten the mood, resulting in an album that ranges from energy inducing to downright fun.
The band maintains a vigorous tempo and adheres to a breakneck pace full of twists and turns around every bend. That being said, the album seems to differentiate between the first and second half. The first run of five or so tracks serve up the lighter side of Strike Twelve, while the other feels more sonically serious. Apart from the urgent, melodic chorus vocals, and killer guitar solo framing opener “The End Is Near” (an undeniable album standout), the first few tracks rely heavily on a light coating of dark humour. Take “Failure Is An Option,” which bounces along jovially with a real “town reject” sort of vibe, embodying the living farce about which the band seems to pokes fun. “I’m paralyzed, can’t make a move, bit off more than I can chew, wish there was something I could do,” speaks Matt T. in jest as he reflects on a life lived without pumping the breaks. Likewise, “Midwest Town” takes a goofy yet satirically intentioned approach, serving as a self-aware tune poking fun at the things fledging artists do to buy in and sell out. The imagery surrounding a small town artists leaving their morals at the door is every bit as unflattering and humorous as you’d expect.
With only a slight warning offered by “Apathy’s” more serious tone, Strike Twelve raise the stakes with an unforgettable cover of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home).” The punked-up rendition of the space-traveler chronicle perfectly captures the cosmic scope of being flung wildly into the great abyss. It’s all wrapped up tightly in a salvo of heart-pumping melodic skate-punk clearly indebted to No Use For A Name. Not to detract from the band’s original work, but as far as covers go, “Major Tom” is an unexpected album highlight. The tracks that follow, notably “Cut The Cable,” “Strike Twelve’s Excellent Adventure” and “Monument,” seem to present a darker, grimmer outlook, under a veil of dark humour. “Monument” in particular infuses metal-tinged chords and guitar solos speaking to the sensitive topic of life’s value, worth, and what it means to have it all placed on hold indefinitely. “I’m a glutton for pain. I really can’t complain ‘cause deep down I do it ‘cause I love it. But the more I think about it I get knots in my stomach,” sings the band in “Joe’s Apartment,” a track that perfectly exemplifies the band’s use of humorous imagery like that of a train wreck of a messy apartment to expose the more severe dangers of losing life balance (also a theme reflected in the album title).
Come for the melody, stay for the humour and sharp insight. There are many reasons to embrace Strike Twelve, and Down With The Ship makes a compelling case for each of them. While all thirteen tracks might not be as stylistically cohesive as those comprising Moonshine, Strike Twelve have produced yet solid reminder as to why they’re still running thirteen years later. Fans of the age-old EpitFat sound should once again take note.