Wasted MindFat Wreck Chords
By Cole Faulkner
How do you follow up an epic concept album chronicling the global curtain-call of armageddon? While some may answer with the ever swelling push for bigger and more cataclysmic subject matter, Milwaukee’s own Direct Hit backpedals from the global, and gravitates to the immensely personal. For their third full length, Wasted Mind, the energetic three-piece presents the hallucinogenic tale of a substance abusing protagonist that strays from recreation to a path of dependency. Presented through the full-bodied pop-punk framework you’d expect from Direct Hit, the band leads listeners through a sonic and conceptual kaleidoscopic blend into twelve assertive tracks of altered reality.
Inspired from the thematic literary content of 1959’s Naked Lunch and 1971’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Direct Hit offers an evolving commentary of narcotic embrace, addiction, rehabilitation, and inevitably relapse. In other words, venturing too far down the rabbit hole and losing your way back. “Was it real or was it just the acid?” screams the band on “Was It The Acid” in choral harmony amidst a wave of Blink 182-esque “na, na na, na nas.” The juxtaposition of isolation and embrace lingers through lines like “we flew to a land that was made of ice cream” and “injecting too much is a hazardous pastime, when the trip is your lifetime.” Similarly zestful contrast bursts forth between songs like “Paid in Brains” and “Promised Land.” The former jarringly throws a one two-punch of guttural belting and abrasively bursting alto-saxophone (think the angry ska of Chilled Monkey Brains), while the latter ushers in a church bell chiming marching anthem that rises on a melodic cloud of handclaps and “woo-oahs” (think Dillinger Four meets Morning Glory). Direct Hit’s confidence continues to skyrocket since their early years, as they seem willing to direct their sound any which way without reserve.
In an interview, the band revealed that producer Mike Kennerty (All American Rejects) rejected at least half of the tracks Direct Hit demoed in the studio, but that bits and pieces of each rejection made their way into existing songs as periodic flashes. While we can only speculate as to which moments are remnants of failed experiments, the band leaves listeners with an appetizing trail of breadcrumbs. For instance, the carefully gliding piano exit of “Another Dimension,” the Beach Boys-esque surfer chorus of “Bleach Music,” and the electronica and synth harmonies popping from “Infinite Pills, Infinite Alcohol” all stand out as fleeting but unique junctures in Wasted Mind’s eclectic journey. That the band synthesizes such competing vectors with vision and continuity ensures a vibrant and engaging journey.
Direct Hit’s Fat Wreck Chords debut serves as both an adventurous jump up in style as well as a vehicle for career advancement. With the legendary label’s backing, the four-piece presents their most polished work to date, without sacrificing the gritty, turn-on-a-dime showmanship Direct Hit has become known for. Their target clearly remains fans of Dead To Me, Dillinger Four, and Banner Pilot, with Direct Hit now comfortably standing shoulder to shoulder on such an all star roster. There’s no telling where Direct Hit will head from here, but if their track record is any indication, it will surely mark another unique step forward.