Old Habits Die Hard
Sailor's Graves Records
Today, gruff vocals and a bouncy brass section just go hand in hand. But how would the Boston punk scene have developed had the Mighty Might Bosstones had never broken out twenty years ago? Obviously we’ll never know, but it isn’t far fetched to assume that those emerging from the movement may have never been – especially particularly brass heavy acts. But thankfully history unfolded in favour of the brass lover, and for over the past decade many bands have been taking the genre to new heights. One in particular is Boston’s Kings of Nuthin, who since emerging in 2001 has embraced brass at its swing and jazz roots for a rare dancehall punk display unlike any other.
Their latest release comes a lengthy four years after 2006’s Over The Counter Culture, in the form of their second Sailor’s Grave Records release, Old Habits Die Hard. Rest assured, if you’re already familiar with the Kings, the band picks up right where they left off. And if you’re not, well, there’s never been a better introduction.
Centering their sound around a variety of eccentric musicians, the Kings thrive off of everything from trumpets and saxophones, to piano keys, a thick double bass, and a classic 50’s rock n’ roll beat. Vocalist Torr Skoog rounds out the ensemble with an unmistakable Boston accent and deep vodka drenched roar. Put them all together and you get an infectious rallying cry that just makes you want to get up and make your way to the nearest dance floor.
Old Habits makes a case for the Kings Of Nuthin being like a fine wine aging its way to perfection. While comparing with previous releases doesn’t find any particularly profound innovations, the band has never felt so cohesive. In fact, what started out as a punk outfit respecting the classics, has since taken complete command of its influences. Right from the opening track, “Black & Blue,” it’s easy to tell that at this point the Kings are more than your basic novelty band.
Songs range from anthemic to feel good, but always feel uplifting. Tracks like “Sick & Tired” never let up thanks to one of the tightest brass sections to ever come out of Boston, and the shear instrumental variety on “Same Situation” means there’s always something to reel you in. Many tracks come punctuated with interesting tempo shifts and strings of solos that move between pianos, guitars, and saxophones.
While band members play each instrument with such a traditional sense of class, the real “punk” identity surfaces amidst the lyrics. For example, “Shitsville U.S.A.” takes a socially conscious perspective on how working an unfulfilling occupation in an unremarkable setting makes for a miserable existence. Likewise, “Old Habits” serves as a reminder to live your life without regret for fear of your past controlling your present. While not terribly profound in content, the Kings’ lyrical sincerity makes such common tales and morals rather exciting.
For all of the above reasons you won’t find many releases quite like Old Habits Die Hard this year (or any year for that matter), making he Kings Of Nuthin’s latest offering an experience well worth jumping on.