Honesty Lives ElsewhereFat Wreck Chords
By Cole Faulkner
The release of Bad News really framed San Francisco punk act Get Dead’s hybrid acoustic style as a natural addition to the Fat Wreck Chords family. The classic Against Me! twang and Swingin’ Utters gruffness offered up a safe and exhilarating take on what fans have come to expect. Branching out into the realm of plugged-in tunes was a gamble that paid off in spades, and couldn’t have been a more suitable next step. Now moving into their fourth full length, Honesty Lives Elsewhere, Get Dead continues exploring the redefinition they embarked upon a couple short years earlier.
The band frames Honestly Lives Elsewhere as a plugged-in affair from the get go, opening the album on a particularly anthemic, chorus-driven note. “Silence” is big and brash with plenty of high flying riffs and even an attitude-laden, razor tipped guitar solo during the final bridge. Vocalist Sam King’s whiskey soaked vocals are a shoe in for this roughneck style, tarnishing the underlying melody in the best of ways as he weaves through chorus and verse with the aggressive rapid-fire assertion that, “after all the violence, you’ll finally meet the end.” Drawing upon the track’s title, the band pauses strategically, emphasizing effect through the power of absence. As if to reassure listeners of their roots, “Choke” flies open with the jangle of acoustic strings, bolstered by organ keys, sparingly interspersed plugged-in chords, and a steady rhythm that feels every bit as full bodied as it’s full-band neighbour.
The best of the bunch tend to blur the lines, challenging listeners with the question of whether they’re listening to an acoustic or plugged in track. For instance, “Cliffs” straddles the line with the sort of expert twang that should excite old timers in the clear likeness to As The Eternal Cowboy-era Against Me!. Meanwhile, the jovial approach and uppity tempo of “Copper To Gold” and “Keep Rowing, Stupid” are indebted to the undying spirit of Swingin’ Utters, while the pure acoustic-piano showpiece “Ordnance” draws upon the dimly lit, late dives fueling Lawrence Arms front man Chris McCaughan’s Sundowner.
Also worth nothing this time around, is that Honesty Lives Elsewhere’s content feels less “dire” than Bad News. Whereas Bad News made light of some pretty dark personal topics, Honesty Lives Elsewhere takes a lighter approach, dealing with less self destruction, and more of sifting through the results of circumstance. While on surface level a minor change, the lighter substance actually makes Honestly Lives Elsewhere more conducive than its predecessor to a casual and more frequent listen.
If Honesty Lives Here makes one thing clear, it’s that Get Dead has heart. The band revisits the the classic stripped-down and built back up punk-rock performance of various underground icons from the past twenty years as if it were their own. Once again, listeners won’t find tons of originality at hand (even with the band steadily expanding its breadth of sounds), but the execution and result satisfies without reserve. Honesty Lives Here serves as a healthy reminder that you needn’t reinvent the wheel when the ride is already this smooth – and that’s the honest truth.